On her MSNBC show last night, Rachel Maddow gave a history of the ex-gay movement in light of psychiatrist Robert Spitzer’s retraction of his 2001 study. Watch the report below:

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The brief segment provides a fairly good run-down of how groups such as Exodus International rose up in defiance after the APA declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973. Maddow identifies how ex-gays seized on the Spitzer study as proof of a “gay cure,” and how, a decade later, Spitzer admitted his conclusions — that gay men and women could successfully change their sexual orientation — were entirely wrong.

Where it falls short, as most mainstream reports on the ex-gay movement do, is in distinguishing between the varieties of ex-gay treatment. Wacky clips of Richard Cohen screaming and flinging around tennis rackets are mixed with mentions of Mitt Romney and Exodus International, with little context to connect the dots.

That objection can be overstated, of course. To gay men and women on the outside of the ex-gay movement, the message is just as insulting and misguided whether it’s found in the out-and-out quackery of a Cohen or the “progressive” language of “journeys,” “processes” and “healing.”

Maddow highlights a 2006 quote from Alan Chambers, which reminds us how recently the Exodus International president was touting an undisguised message of sexual orientation change (and using it to prop up an anti-gay political message):

The lives of thousands of former homosexuals, like me, verify that homosexuality is not an immutable trait, [and] therefore marriage is not a civil right to be casually granted to any group who demands it.

Since then, Exodus has become ever hazier on the issue of “change,” stepping up efforts to rebrand its message in light of its declining fortunes.

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