U.S. rep. introduces resolution against ex-gay therapy

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U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.

A congressional resolution aimed at protecting young people from the psychological abuse of so-called "ex-gay" therapy has been reintroduced.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said her Stop Harming Our Kids resolution would encourage state lawmakers to pass laws similar to those enacted in California and New Jersey that prohibit the practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of children.

Speier, in a statement on the House floor on Dec. 3, said, "When Jerry Spencer told his family that he was gay, his mother told him not to worry because they would quote ‘fix it.’ This began seven years of going through so-called ‘conversion therapy’ to try to make him straight. He was forced to put blocks of ice on his hands while he looked at pictures of guys holding hands, and would only be given relief from the pain if he pleaded to see a picture of a guy and girl holding hands. Other survivors of this quackery were told to strip down and hold their genitalia or to snap themselves with a rubber band every time they experienced same-sex attraction. Jerry said that each time he left, quote, ‘a little more destroyed.'"

Professional medical and mental health organizations do not support ex-gay therapy and many say such therapy is dangerous to the patient. A task force of the American Psychological Association found that such therapy can be linked to confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, thoughts of suicide, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame and decreased self-esteem.

"These practices have been rejected by every mainstream mental health association as neither safe nor effective," said Speier. "These efforts frequently increase family rejection, which we know make LGBT youth 8.4 times more likely than straight youth  to report attempting suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs."

The resolution has 15 co-sponsors in the House and the support of the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Trevor Project, The Southern Poverty Law Center, Truth Wins Out, Parents, Families & Friends Lesbians and Gays National and the Stop Abuse Campaign.

In the next year, lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin and Ohio are expected to consider prohibitions on ex-gay therapy.