Conversion Therapy: Ban On Controversial Practice Struck Down In California

A California judge blocked a law that bans so-called homosexual "conversion therapy" in the state on Monday. The therapy attempts to change gay minors straight through various practices. U.S. District Judge William Shubb denied Governor Jerry Brown’s legislation, claiming that it violates the Firtst Amendment right of therapists. This has been a major setback for gay rights activists in California. Conversion therapy has been controversial in the medical world, in that many claim little evidence support that the treatment is effective. Their sentiments are valid, and the practice should be outlawed for the protection of minors.

Conversion therapy was commonly used in the 1960s by psychiatrists that believed homosexuality was a disorder. Treatments can consist of aversion therapy, psychoanalysis and shock therapy. Some psychiatrists believed that homosexuality stemmed from issues in the family unit, and not genetic predisposition. According to this hypothesis, a homosexual boy seeking out the same sex most likely is attempting to fill the void of paternal love. The goal of conversion therapy is not to eradicate homosexual desires completely, but to diminish them to the point where they won’t be acted on.

The American Psychological Association has said conversion therapy is not a valid medical practice, and removed homosexuality from a list of their defined disorders. It released an official resolution in 1974, and reaffirmed their position in 1997.

“Be it further resolved, that the American Psychological Association concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation,” the APA council stated.

Dr. Robet Spitzer, a prominent figure in the conversion therapy movement, later apologized to the gay community about conducting his controversial conversion therapy studies. In an interview with The New York Times, Spitzer describes his overwhelming regret:

“You know, it’s the only regret I have; the only professional one, And I think, in the history of psychiatry, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a scientist write a letter saying that the data were all there but were totally misinterpreted. Who admitted that and who apologized to his readers.”

To think that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be “fixed” is erroneous. Conversion therapy is detrimental to minors and can lead to depression and suicide, as it teaches them there is something "wrong" with them. The U.S. continues to evolve into a society that promotes tolerance, and conversion therapy is a setback to this positive progression.

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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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