Cybercast News Service reports today that a political coalition representing numerous U.S. ex-gay organizations, including hundreds of local affiliate groups, “is developing a legal strategy to litigate on behalf of people who challenge the proposition that individuals are ‘born gay.'”

First, some background: The coalition web site claims to support “personal choice,” “right to know,” “tolerance,” “policy neutrality” and “equal access” — but only for antigay and ex-gay choices, information, and policy. Several member organizations have lobbied

  • for discrimination against gays in employment, housing, and public services
  • against social and religious tolerance of homosexuality
  • against the availability of pro-tolerance or “pro-gay” information in schools and the media, and
  • against gay people serving as leaders in church, government, child care, education, and the media.

In the CNS story, ex-gay coalition president Arthur Goldberg says, “We want to make sure that people understand the diversity, that this is an open forum. We want toleration of those who have been able to successfully change and get their rights recognized as real rights.” In other words, the same ex-gay groups that oppose nondiscrimination laws based on any sexual orientation DO seek nondiscrimination laws solely protecting ex-gays.

The article says Goldberg described ex-gays as “the most repressed minority in the world” — a remark that numerous international minority groups, who are killed for their ethnicity or beliefs, may feel is both racist and self-pitying.

According to the article, some coalition members want laws passed so that they can charge researchers and educators with crimes if they air evidence of a biological component to sexual orientation and some listener later has homosexual sex.

According to Goldberg, schools and universities that tell questioning individuals homosexuality is genetic may be liable in lawsuits if clients endanger themselves or others by engaging in sex acts on the advice of school counselors or psychologists.

Here is a public memo from Goldberg announcing the detailed goal of the coalition to sue schools, counselors, doctors and insurers — even Big Brothers/Big Sisters — unless they comply with ex-gay ideology.

Michael Hamar, attorney to victims of ex-gay activist Michael Johnston, comments in depth on the ex-gay coalition’s political campaign:

Group Prepares Legal Challenge to ‘Born Gay’ Theory
By Michael Hamar, October 29, 2003

The [CNSNews.com] article immediately caught my attention because of my past e-mail correspondence with Warren Throckmorton, one of the individuals quoted, after he attacked me by name his August 7, 2003, column “Ex-gay leader’s fall proves counseling is ineffective, right? Wrong!” originally published at http://www.townhall.com. In the article, Throckmorton accused me of “outing” Michael Johnston (Johnston is HIV+ and an “ex-gay” poster boy featured in a nationwide TV and newspaper ad campaign in 1998 shortly after the murder of Matthew Shepard who was exposed this past August as having unsafe sex with men in the Hampton Roads area under an assumed name during 2002 and 2003) for some implied sinister purpose Obviously, my purposes were of (1) representing my client, and (2) assist in warning individuals of their potential HIV exposure through Johnston in the hope that they would get tested so as to minimize the potential spread of HIV.

Now, in this October 29, 2003 CNSNews.com article where he is quoted, Warren Throckmorton would seem to be saying one thing in research articles published in legitimate professional journals and something entirely different and inconsistent in far right and “Christian” Right literature and web sites. His constant support of the ex-gay programs and failure to add caveats to his “Christian” Right apology pieces seems, in my opinion, to be disingenuous in view of the fact that his June 2002 article in the American Psychological Association Journal concluded that these “ex-gay” programs could not be proved to be as effective as advertised by their “Christian” Right promoters. Moreover, Mr. Throckmorton also stated in an August 7, 2003, e-mail to me after I objected to his article using my name, that:

“I don’t think I have used the word cure or said that change is universal. I do chide my colleagues who make such claims. I agree with the idea that disclaimers are important and make that case in my
academic articles.”

A few sentences from Throckmorton’s June 2002 APA Journal article say it all: “….Research in which the term ex-gay is used is sparse. I could locate only 11 reports in the professional literature or under review for publication concerning individuals involved in ex-gay ministries. The extent and degree of impact, positive or negative, of these ministries is currently impossible to gauge….” Elsewhere in the article Throckmorton states (1) “…there are only a few published empirical reports concerning the experiences of ex-gays;” (2) “This review does not answer the controversial question, Do ex-gay ministries help people change sexual orientation?”; and (3) “Neither gay-affirmative nor ex-gay interventions should be assumed to be the preferred approach to recommend to clients presenting with concerns over sexual identity….”

Equally interesting are the ethical practice guidelines that Throckmorton sets out in his June 2002, APA Journal article which he states mental health care professionals should follow (these guidelines are quoted verbatim below). In practice, Throckmorton in his apology pieces for the “ex-gay” programs (nor the “Christian” Right “ex-gay ministries” in their claims of a guaranteed “cure”), as well as in this CNSNews.com article appear to disregard his own guidelines. Rather, he states that:

“…policymakers should be allowed to hear that thousands of people who used to consider themselves homosexuals now are living as heterosexuals….”

The article also notes that: Conservative groups said they would use same-sex marriage as an issue to rally voters in the 2004 presidential election.”

In the CNSNews.com article, nowhere does Throckmorton cite any documentation to support the claim that of “thousands of people” have changed to being heterosexual. The “Christian” Right organizations make this claim over and over again, yet to date I have found nothing to back up the claim. In this regard, the studies reviewed in Throckmorton’s June, 2002, article involved a combined aggregate of 1,490 individuals. When the acknowledged failure rate of the participants in these studies is factored in, the studies themselves yield a far smaller number which does not supports the claim of “thousands of people”). In fact, the largest study reviewed by Throckmorton showed an aggregate failure rate of 67%.

Second, Throckmorton clearly seems to be making a judgment call potentially politically and legally harmful to large numbers of gays, based apparently on his personal religious beliefs. The October 29, 2003, article is devoid any meaningful caveats that Throckmorton said were important in his e-mail to me. Likewise, Throckmorton’s judgment call is not rendered in a manner that respects the dignity and wishes of many, many gays, even though his own ethical guidelines require this. In my opinion, the obvious agenda of this “coalition” and Mr. Throckmorton is to mislead legislators and political leaders into taking a stance that since gays can change, no legal protections or recognition of gay relationships is either necessary or proper.

I have to wonder how the APA and other mental health care associations allow Throckmorton to get away with saying one thing in a legitimate professional journals such as the APA Journal , but then repeatedly say something entirely different elsewhere, such as this CNS News.com article, his different townhall.com op-ed articles, and articles on other “Christian” Right web sites. Throckmorton’s anti-gay bias is also demonstrated by his current affiliation with NARTH, an anti-gay organization which like P-Fox, is affiliated with the major “Christian” Right organizations which recently sponsored the so-called “Protection of Marriage Week” and disseminate untrue and discredited claims on virtually a daily basis. The more I see of the “Christian” Right and its affiliates and enablers, the more I have come to realize that these people and organizations are anything but Christians. Honesty and fair dealing, in my opinion, are unknown concepts to them.

Michael Hamar
Norfolk, Virginia

Here are the ethical guidelines Throckmorton proposes in his June 2002 APA article, yet seems to ignore:

“Implications and Applications”

So what should mental health professionals do when presented with clients who request sexual reorientation or who are in distress over sexual orientation? In my view, the uncertainties that surround this topic argue for a careful response from clinicians and theorists on this issue. For instance, clients who request sexual reorientation could be informed that multiple views exist and multiple courses have been pursued with a variety of outcomes (Hart, 1984).

The following guidelines are distilled from Throckmorton (1998), Yarhouse (1998a, 1998b), and Shidlo & Schroeder (2000).

1. Informed consent undergirds all the recommendations for dealing with ex-gay issues in practice. Practitioners should do a standard clinical assessment, with the usual attention to the client’s competence to give consent and the therapist’s nonbiased disclosure of information. Further, therapists should document that clients understand the information presented and that the decisions to seek interventions are voluntary (Dsubanko-Obermayr & Baumann, 1998).

2. Neither gay-affirmative nor ex-gay interventions should be assumed to be the preferred approach to recommend to clients presenting with concerns over sexual identity. Generally, gay-affirmative therapy or referral to such a practitioner should be offered to those clients who want to adjust to and affirm a same-gender sexual orientation. Clients who decide they want to modify same-sex patterns of sexual arousal could consider ex-gay or reorientation therapy or should seek referral to ex-gay ministries. Assessment should be conducted to help clarify the strength and persistence of the client’s wishes.

3. Practitioners can inform clients that many mental health professionals believe same-gender sexual orientation cannot be changed but that others believe change is possible. Clients should be informed that some mental health professionals and researchers dispute the concept of an immutable sexual orientation. Practitioners should explain that not all clients who participate in gay-affirming therapy are able to find satisfaction in a gay identity and that not all clients who seek sexual reorientation are successful. When clients cannot decide which therapeutic course to pursue, practitioners could consider suggesting that clients make a choice that is consistent with their values, personal convictions, and/or religious beliefs.

4. A careful, respectful assessment of clients’ religious orientation should be included as an aspect of clinical judgment. Because religion is one of the client attributes that mental health professionals are ethically bound to respect, practitioners should take great care in advising those clients dissatisfied with same-sex sexual orientation due to their religious beliefs. Clearly the review above suggests that religious belief is often crucial to both the decision to seek change and the maintenance of change. Indeed, such clients may see their religious orientation as being more crucial than their sexual feelings to how they organize their lives. For clients whose religious beliefs are at odds with same-sex behaviors, ex-gay ministries may hold some value in assisting them toward a healthy adjustment. To accommodate such clients, practitioners could develop expertise in methods of sexual reorientation or develop appropriate referral resources.

5. There are a great number of religious perspectives concerning same-sex orientation. Practitioners should be prepared to refer clients to resources within the client’s faith tradition. For instance, for conservative Christians, White (1995) has presented a view that attempts to harmonize same-sex orientation with evangelical Christianity. On the other hand, Dallas (1996) presents a traditional conservative Christian view of same-sex orientation that is more consistent with ex-gay interventions.

6. As documented by Shidlo and Schroeder (2000), there are some ministries and practitioners who use questionable and/or ineffective techniques to facilitate an ex-gay adjustment. Practitioners can delicately provide consultation to a client about such techniques without disparaging the client’s objectives of sexual reorientation. For instance, Shidlo and Schroeder described a practitioner’s directive to a client to quit taking piano lessons. The “practitioner” asserted that playing piano was a feminine activity and should be replaced by team sports involvement. This recommendation for favoring “nonerotic same-sex activity” (team sports) over piano playing could have been based on Moberly’s (1983) theories as described above. However, Robinson’s (1998) findings cast doubt on the efficacy of such interventions to effect modification of sexual desires. In light of this article, a practitioner hearing such a recommendation could discuss the harmful ramifications of such a course while remaining basically respectful of the client’s desire to seek an ex-gay adjustment.

7. Practitioners have an obligation to respect the dignity and wishes of all clients. Practitioners should not refuse services to clients who pursue an ex-gay course but rather should respect the diversity of choice and consider a referral to an ex-gay ministry or practitioner.”

Source: Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, American Psychological Association Journal,
June 2002 Vol. 33, No. 3, 242-248.

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