Do We Need Bans On Gay Conversion Therapy?

After the Supreme Court mulled over testimony debating gay marriage equality last week, local government in New Jersey is also ruling on gay rights. A bill outlawing conversion therapy, in which gay minors undergo counseling to change their sexual orientation, is up for a Senate vote. The Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee already passed it by a 7-1 Vote on March 18, according to USA today.

One of the more contentious arguments is whether a child is born gay or that it is an active choice. While the practice of conversion therapy is not necessarily an effective one, it still has drawn further polarity on the part of patients who say it is either a successful or detrimental process. Furthermore, besides just a social or medical issue, conversion therapy is now at the forefront of the Supreme Court’s agenda and has also trickled right down to local politics. This issue must be confronted with the utmost respect for its dire consequences.  

While SOCE or "sexual orientation change efforts" has not been adopted as an effective therapy from any accredited health organizations like the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations, it is still practiced by licensed professionals. In fact, both organizations oppose or warn against reparative therapy. Neither group endorses the idea that there is a problem with being gay or that homosexuality is something that can be changed or suppressed. A California court banned conversion therapy last year, although now an appeals court is saying the ban is a violation of the First Amendment.

In New Jersey, the issue came to be a point of dispute in the race for governor, as Chris Christie’s opponent accused him of not taking a firm stance on the issue. Christie’s spokesperson retaliated the next day with a statement saying the governor does not believe in conversion therapy. While the issue has become a hot-button one for politicians, it’s also an intensely personal one.

Some individuals have come forward to say that the conversion therapy has worked on them. One such example, currently the president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, said that he was stopped being gay after a tumultuous ten years during the major AIDS epidemic where he saw most of his friends succumb to the disease. He believes that no one is born a homosexual. He also thinks that the ban on conversion therapy would hinder therapists looking to help children.

On the flip side of this conversion therapy success story is the example of one man who was sent away to church camp and was confronted with six weeks of flirtation classes, behavioral mimic sessions, and ultimately shock therapy, all in an effort to rid him of his homosexuality. He attempted suicide shortly after the treatment.  

While most therapies such as those for alcohol and drug abuse are deemed to be helpful even if they are ultimately ineffective, the particular therapy of changing someone because of their sexual orientation is not only invasive: should be unlawful. And while it is an intensely personal issue it is clear that the courts and the government do have to step in to enforce personal liberties. It has been the case with race and gender that even though under the law all men are created equal, certain laws must enforce and sustain that equality. The same is true of choice in sexuality: when those freedoms aren’t spelled out the laws must evolve in order to reflect the changes in our modern society and protect basic freedoms and human rights.