social sciences
special features
about glbtq

Advertising Opportunities
Press Kit
Research Guide
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
site guide
search tips
research guide
editors & contributors
contact us
send feedback
write the editor
Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter to receive a spotlight on glbtq culture every month.
e-mail address:
Popular Topics in The Arts
Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators
Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.
Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall
Although sparse in images documenting the gay community, pre-Stonewall gay male photography blurs the boundaries between art, erotica, and social history.
Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male
Given the historic stigma around making, circulating, and possessing overtly homoerotic images, the visual arts have been especially important for providing a socially sanctioned arena for depicting the naked male body and suggesting homoerotic desire.
New Queer Cinema
Independent films that aggressively assert homosexual identity and queer culture, the New Queer Cinema can be seen as the culmination of several developments in American cinema.
White, Minor
Renowned photographer, teacher, critic, editor, and curator, Minor White created some of the most interesting photographs of male nudes of the second half of the twentieth century, but did not exhibit them for fear of scandal.
Halston (Roy Halston Frowick)
The first international fashion superstar, Halston dressed and befriended some of America's most glamorous women.
Surrealism Surrealism
An artistic movement that grew out of Dadaism and flourished in Europe shortly after World War I, Surrealism embraced the idea that art was an expression of the subconscious.
Winfield, Paul
Film, stage, and television actor Paul Winfield was openly gay in his private life, but maintained public silence about his homosexuality.
Topics In the News
Reparative Therapy at the Ninth Circuit
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/19/13
Last updated on: 04/19/13
Bookmark and Share

Governor Jerry Brown.

On April 18, 2013, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments as to whether a California law prohibiting "reparative therapy" for minors is constitutional. Passed by the California legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 29, 2012, the bill, which covers only state-licensed therapists, declares that "being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming" that requires curing. Under the law, "any practices" that seek to change a minor's sexual orientation are deemed unprofessional conduct subject to discipline.

Soon after Governor Brown signed the bill into law, it was challenged in federal court by practitioners of reparative therapy. Two district judges issued conflicting decisions. One refused to block the law after ruling that the plaintiffs were unlikely to prove that it infringes on their civil rights, while another judge said he found the First Amendment issues presented by the ban to be compelling and ordered the state to temporarily exempt from the law the three people named in the case before him.

Technically, the issue before Ninth Circuit is whether the preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law against the named plaintiffs will stay in place. But this ruling is crucial. As Scottie Thomaston at Equality on Trial observes, "The answer to the question of whether the law attempts to regulate protected speech or whether it only regulates aspects of the medical profession will likely have a huge impact on how the case proceeds. If the Ninth Circuit believes the law attempts to regulate speech that is constitutionally protected, then courts will have to scrutinize the 'conversion therapy' ban very carefully, making it less likely the ban would be upheld in the future. But if the court decides it's simply a permitted regulation of the medical profession, it would not face a heightened level of judicial scrutiny."

The panel, consisting of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, Judge Susan Graber, and Judge Morgan Christen, heard nearly two hours of arguments before a packed courtroom. Attorneys for the therapists said that the law violates free speech and religious rights, while Deputy Attorney General Alexandra Robert Gordon argued that reparative therapy was dangerous and unprofessional and could be regulated by the state.

Scott Graham reports in Law.com that the panel "sounded ready Wednesday to uphold a state law that bans psychotherapists from trying to change minors' sexual orientation."

The Judges seemed sympathetic to the argument that the state had the power to regulate the medical profession, particularly in the area of pediatric care. If legislators wanted to ban the use of electroshock therapy or psychoactive drugs on minors, Judge Susan Graber asked, "why can't they do that?"

Attorneys for the practitioners of reparative therapy said that the law unconstitutionally dictates what they can say during counseling sessions.

When pressed for evidence that reparative therapy is harmful, Gordon acknowledged that there have not been many scientific studies of conversion therapy on children, because conducting them would be unethical. "When they become suicidal we'll know for sure this is a harmful practice--happily, the law does not require that," she said.

Graber noted that the state does not have to prove compelling evidence of harm if it concludes that psychotherapy is not speech. Gordon agreed. "The question you'd really be asking is, is that a reasonable regulation?" she said.

Kozinski cited an amicus curiae brief from individuals who underwent conversion therapy and described the intense emotional harm they endured.

Christen challenged Pacific Justice Institute's Kevin Snider, representing practitioners of reparative therapy, to point to evidence that conversion therapy actually helps teenagers become heterosexual.

"We don't have the burden of proving that it's effective or ineffective," Snider responded.

The judges seemed inclined to rule that the state had the power to regulate psychotherapy directed at minors. Judge Kosinski made a distinction between the rights of adults to seek therapy and the power of the state to protect minors from therapies that may be harmful.

The reparative therapy movement is rooted in the work of 1960s psychologists such as Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides, who claimed that homosexuality was both pathological and susceptible to change. When their position was repudiated by the 1973 decision of the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the category of "illness," they launched a counter-offensive against the views of the psychological and psychiatric establishment.

In 1992, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) was established. Led by Joseph Nicolosi and Charles Socarides, and funded largely by right-wing religious and political organizations, NARTH is self-described as "a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to affirming a complementary, male-female model of gender and sexuality." It essentially espouses the view of homosexuality that was dominant in the 1950s and 1960s: that a homosexual "preference" results from a developmental problem, especially a child's failure to identify properly with adult figures of the same gender.

Sexual orientation change efforts pose serious health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide. For minors, who are often subjected to these practices at the insistence of misled parents who either do not know or do not believe that the practice is harmful, the risks of long-term mental and physical health consequences are particularly severe.

In June 2011, Ryan Kendall, a young man who subsequently testified in favor of the bill banning reparative therapy for minors, spoke with Anderson Cooper about his experience with reparative therapy.

Related Encyclopedia Entries
browse:   arts   literature   social-sciences   discussion boards
learn more about glbtq       contact us       advertise on glbtq.com
Bookmark and Share

glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2015, glbtq, Inc.

Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.