Two weeks ago, Texas State Representative Celia Israel (D-Austin) filed House Bill 3495, which would prohibit mental health providers in Texas from attempting to provide services aimed at changing a child’s (under age 18) sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. “No child should be subjected to this extremely harmful and discredited so-called therapy,” said National Field Director Marty Rouse of the Human Rights Campaign. “These harmful practices are based on the false claim that being LGBT is a mental illness that should be cured, using fear and shame to tell young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are. Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention” (Nueces County Record Star, 2015).
Speaking to the Texas Observer, Rep. Israel explained: “To suggest that some young kid that happens to be gay is less than normal is very hurtful and harmful and dangerous, and I think I put myself back in those years when I was first discovering who I was. … I felt strongly about introducing a bill that was a counter to that, to say, ‘We don’t need fixing. We just need your love’” (Wright, 2015).
Rep. Israel acknowledges HB3495 may not pass the Republican-majority legislature, but felt the bill was a necessary response to the Texas GOP’s endorsement of conversion or reparative therapy in their 2014 platform. A draft of the platform plank cites the GOP’s stance: We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy (Temporary Platform Committee Report, 2014).
The Texas Observer shared the story of Waco native, Bryan Christopher, who spent 18 years of his life attempting to change his sexual orientation through religious and mental health counseling. At one point in his struggle, he felt compelled to jump off a cliff. Christopher received help through a crisis hotline and psychiatric services. He would eventually claim his own identity 6 years later.
Now 45, Christopher has written about his experiences in his book, Hiding from Myself, and supports bills like HB3495.
Christopher believes the bill will “protect the children from being forced into a therapy that just reinforces the fear and the shame that most of these kids already have, and it leads to people taking their own lives. There’s nothing good that ever comes out of it” (Wright, 2015).
Licensed counselor, David Pickup, practices reparative therapy in Dallas and Los Angeles, and was also the plaintiff in an unsuccessful lawsuit in California that challenged a ban of reparation therapy. Pickup describes himself as an “ex-homosexual” whose methods are effective, and he feels the proposed ban in Texas is a violation of the freedom of speech of counselors, parents, and children (Wright, 2015).
If HB3495 were to pass, those who violated law would be held accountable to disciplinary actions from state licensing boards. Nearly all major medical and mental health associations (e.g. American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, American Counseling Association) have publicly stated their opposition against conversion or reparative therapy.
The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation conducted an investigation and review of SOCE: sexual orientation change efforts. They found these efforts are “unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates” (APA, 2009).
This is a summary of their finding:
Similar bills have passed in California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., protecting children and youth from conversion therapy. These laws have been upheld by the Ninth and Third Circuit Courts (Nueces, 2015). The Southern Poverty Law Center (2015) identified and mapped at least 70 therapists in 20 states that advertise as practicing conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy (2015). Southern Law Poverty Center. Retrieved from http://www.splcenter.org/conversion-therapy
Glassgold, J.M., Beckstead, L., Dresher, L., Greene, B., Miller, R. L., Worthington, R. L. (2009). Report of the American Psychological Association task force on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. American Psychological Association: Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf
Israel, C. (2015). H. B. 3495. 84th Texas Legislation. Retrieved from http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/pdf/HB03495I.pdf#navpanes=0
Temporary Platform Committee Report (2014). Republican Party of Texas. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1182339/temporary-platform-committee-report.pdf
Wright, J. (2015). Lesbian lawmaker introduce bill to ban “ex-gay” therapy for minors. Texas Observer. Retrieved from http://www.texasobserver.org/lesbian-lawmaker-introduces-bill-to-ban-ex-gay-therapy-for-minors/
Nueces County Record Star (2015). Bill passed to stop conversion therapy. Retrieved from http://www.recordstar.com/recordstar/article_5612a2f0-b8da-50e0-9f29-bbda2d673691.html