Entries in Homosexuality (6)


Student Who Got 'Gay Cure' Sues California Over New Law

Comstock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A college student who claims he once had same-sex attractions but became heterosexual after conversion therapy has filed a lawsuit against California, which has enacted a law that bans so-called "gay cures" for minors.

The lawsuit, also joined as plaintiffs by two therapists who have used the treatments with patients, alleges that the law banning the therapy intrudes on First Amendment protections of free speech, privacy and freedom of religion.

The student, Aaron Blitzer, who is studying to be a therapist in that field, said the law would prevent him from pursuing his career, according to court papers filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The lawsuit names as defendants California Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as 21 other state officials, including members of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences and the California Medical Board.

The other plaintiffs are Donald Welsch, a licensed family therapist and ordained minister who operates a Christian counseling center in San Diego; and Dr. Anthony Duk, a psychiatrist and practicing Roman Catholic.

Both say the law would restrict their counseling practices, according to the lawsuit.

"It's an egregious violation of the rights of young people feeling same-sex attraction, and of parents and counselors who feel it would be beneficial for the individual needs of a young person," said Brad Dacus, president and attorney for the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, which asked a federal judge to prevent the law from taking effect.

"The legislature had an errant assumption that every individual struggling with same-sex attraction is caused by their DNA," he said. "It ignores thousands, including the plaintiff, who have gone through therapy and are now in a happy and healthy heterosexual relationship."

Dacus declined ABC News' request for direct access to the plaintiffs.

Just this week, California lawmakers voted to outlaw therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors who say they are gay, making California the first state to adopt such legislation. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

The bill's sponsor, California state Sen. Ted Lieu, said the therapy -- called "conversion therapy," "sexual orientation therapy," "reparative therapy" or "sexual orientation change efforts" -- amounts to "psychological child abuse."

"I read the lawsuit and, as a matter of fiction, it is a good read," Lieu said in a prepared statement after the suit was filed. "But from any reasonable legal standard, the lawsuit is frivolous. Under the plaintiffs' argument, the First Amendment would shield therapists and psychiatrists from medical malpractice and psychological abuse claims simply because they use speech in practicing their medicine. That is a novel and frivolous view of the First Amendment."

Lieu is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Several members of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences and the California Mental Board were named in the lawsuit.

"Our board voted to support that piece of legislation after working with the author's office to further define sexual orientation change efforts," said Kim Madsen, executive officer for the sciences board, which licenses and oversees therapists.

She had no comment on the lawsuit, but said the board would investigate any complaints of conversion therapy after Jan. 1.

The law's critics say that it infringes on the rights of families and therapists, particularly young people who have same-sex attractions as a result of being victims of sexual abuse.

Dacus said the law makes them "victims twice, as a result denying them counseling and healing."

He said that counseling in "direct violation" of religious or personal beliefs "only precipitates greater confusion and depression and the likelihood of suicide."

"This legislation is a classic example of psychiatric ignorance combined with political neglect," he said, complaining of "compromises" that members of the California Psychiatric Association made with state legislators to enact the law.

"They clearly say that one size fits all and ignore the complexity of same-sex attraction and varying degrees of such attraction, depending on age and background," said Dacus. "It's out of place for the legislature to put such restrictions on it."

Members of the California Psychiatric Association have "mixed feelings" about the law, according to Randal Hagar, director of government relations for the organization.

"There is no psychiatrist who would engage and practice it and, if they did, they would be subject to ethical sanctions," he said.

The American Psychiatric Association has outlawed conversion therapies for more than a decade, insisting they are harmful.

On the other hand, said Hagar, the CPA is concerned about any bill that "basically prescribes any kind of treatment" or one that might lead "downstream" to someone legislating against another practice "they don't like."

"The difference here is that there is a very strong public policy argument that says why this practice ought to be limited," he said. "There is no evidence it does what it purports to be. It is, in essence, fraud ... and there is other evidence that it does harm. It concerns us greatly."

The CPA negotiated for months with legislators to hone language on the bill so that therapists could address "legitimate" talks on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, according to Hagar.

"We were wary of a form of the bill where they can't possibly engage in a discussion," said Hagar, who noted that the association supported the final version of the bill.

They also leaned on another precedent: Electroconvulsive shock therapy is highly regulated with judicial oversight.

"You can't give it to minors -- period," he said.

"I think the bill is clear and clean and did have a definition of supportive exploratory therapy that leads [minors with same-sex attractions] to be accepting and see themselves as a person of strength rather than a flawed person," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sexual Orientation Revealed in Eye Dilation Study

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- They say the eyes are a window to the soul, and now scientists say the pupils can also reveal a person's sexual orientation.

For the first time, researchers at Cornell University have used a specialized infrared lens to measure pupillary changes while subjects watched erotic videos to determine which gender they found attractive.

The results of the study were published recently in the scientific journal PLoS One.

In most cases, a person's stated sexual orientation matched the dilation of their pupils, which show signs of arousal. Previously, scientists used instruments to measure genital arousal, methods that were "too invasive."

Arousal or "interest" is associated with pupil dilation.

"The idea was to find an unconscious measure," said lead researcher and research fellow Gerulf Rieger. "We tried to find measures that were not so invasive, but reliable. The eye tracker infrared camera focuses on the eye while the person watches videos or pictures and measures the changes in pupil size."

The Cornell scientists had 325 subjects -- 165 men and 160 women, aged 20 to 35, all of whom were open about their sexual orientation.

As a control, subjects were shown naked photos and videos of the gender they were not attracted to. Subjects were also shown "boring" videos of people talking about the weather.

Predictably, heterosexual men showed more pupil dilation after being shown sexual videos of women, and little to men. Heterosexual women, however, responded to both sexes, confirming previous research that women have more fluidity in their sexuality.

"They respond to anything that is in some way sexual," said Rieger. "That doesn't mean they are bisexual. Their body is not connected to their mind, which is very different from guys."

The most plausible explanation for the female response is evolutionary. Primates show a lot of forced copulation that can be "brutal and painful" to females. The physical response seems to be "protective," according to Rieger.

The study did have some surprising results on men who said they were bisexual. The majority of men who identified with that orientation did respond to the sexual videos of both men and women.

"We can now finally argue that a flexible sexual desire is not simply restricted to women. Some men have it, too, and it is reflected in their pupils," said co-researcher Ritch C. Savin-Williams, who is a professor of human development at Cornell.

"In fact, not even a division into 'straight,' 'bi,' and 'gay' tells the full story," he said. "Men who identify as 'mostly straight' really exist both in their identity and their pupil response; they are more aroused to males than straight men, but much less so than both bisexual and gay men."

Measuring sexual arousal has always been a challenge for researchers.

"What if someone comes in and says one thing and responds a different way?" said Rieger. "We wanted to really find a measure of sexuality that goes beyond what people tell us."

The test might have some practical applications, when arousal and stated sexual orientation don't match. Therapists or doctors could guide a person through their own results.

In the past, genital arousal was measured differently for men and women. Men had a rubber band placed around their penis to measure expansion; women inserted a photo receptor instrument into the vagina that measured changes in blood flow.

As experts in human development, the Cornell team was trying to understand sexuality from the beginning. Because they now have a tool that is not so invasive, they can recruit younger subjects and learn more about human sexuality.

"We would not expose children to pornography, but there are different studies that we can now do that are not ethically problematic," said Rieger.

"Even if you say it's an unconscious response, doesn't mean it's all biological," he said. "In an ideal research world, you would study a child and see how early it starts and what it says about social influences."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Don’t Say Gay!’ Eighth Grader's PSA Goes Viral

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A half-minute PSA called Don’t Say Gay has gone viral after YouTube user playahata646 and his little brother demonstrated a funny and pithy way to discourage people from using the phrase.

“In 8th grade we had a PSA project. (Public Service Announcement) "Don’t Say Gay." I chose a funny way to present it. Subscribe! And thanks to my little brother for being the star!” He wrote on his YouTube page.

The eighth grader’s little brother shines in the clip after he slaps his brother across the face and admonishes his brother for using the phrase, “gay.”

“Don’t say ‘gay,’” he yells. “It’s mean, and it’s offensive!”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mass. Transgender Rights Bill Headed for Vote

Steven Errico/Photographer's Choice RF(BOSTON) -- A bill that would protect transgender people in Massachusetts from discrimination and hate crimes could face crucial votes Tuesday in both houses of the state legislature.

The bill would amend the state's non-discrimination statute and existing hate crime laws to include gender identity and expression. Thirteen other states and Washington, D.C., have passed similar bills.

"Transgender individuals in Massachusetts face unacceptably high levels of violence and discrimination in their daily lives," said state Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., a Medford Democrat who co-sponsored the bill. "This bill will extend our statutory civil rights and hate crime protections to the transgender community."

The bill, which was first filed in 2007, has drawn strong opposition from groups like the Massachusetts Family Institute -- a non-profit that "strongly opposes any efforts by political activists to normalize homosexual behavior and all attempts to equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics such as skin color," according to its website.

Roughly 33,000 people in Massachusetts identify themselves as transgender, according to an April 2011 study by the Williams Institute.

A 2009 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 97 percent of transgender people reported being harassed or mistreated at work because of their gender identity or expression. And 47 percent reported being denied a job or promotion, or being fired.

Fifteen percent of transgender people reported living on $10,000 or less per year and 19 percent said they have been homeless, according to the survey.

Hate crime statistics suggest transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence than other members of the LGBT community. If the bill is passed, perpetrators that target people based on gender identity would face the same penalties as those who target people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.

The vote comes in the middle of Transgender Awareness Week, a statewide event hosted by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. The week closes Nov. 20 with Transgender Day of Remembrance -- a memorial to victims of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Homosexuality Gains Increased Acceptance in U.S.

Mario Tama/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Homosexuality is becoming more widely accepted in the U.S., according to new research from a General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago.

HealthDay reports that the study surveyed more than 2,000 people and found that the vast majority of Americans support equality for homosexual people.

The report found that 70 percent of Americans felt homosexuality was "always wrong" in 1973. That percentage dropped to 44 percent by 2010.

"There is a large generation gap on the issue [of same-sex marriage]," noted Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at NORC and author of the NORC report. While 64 percent of those under age 30 support gay marriage, just 27 percent of those aged 70 or older feel the same.

In 1988 there was an 11 percent approval rate for gay marriage. In 2010 there was a 46 percent approval rating.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bachmann Silent on Allegations Her Clinic Offers Gay Conversion Therapy

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Leading mental health experts Tuesday strongly condemned the Christian counseling center owned by GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus for engaging in a discredited therapy designed to convert gays to straights through prayer and self-reflection.

"This is so far outside the mainstream it's practically on Mars," said Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist who has written extensively on the practice of gay conversions.

Marcus Bachmann had denied the family's suburban Minneapolis treatment centers employed so-called reparative therapy in a newspaper interview five years ago, but ABC News reported Monday on the experience of a former patient, and on an undercover operation mounted by gay rights advocates. Both provided evidence that practice is occurring there.

The "path for my therapy would be to read the Bible, pray to God that I would no longer be gay," said Andrew Ramirez, who was 17 years old at the time he sought help from Bachmann & Associates in suburban Minneapolis. "And God would forgive me if I were straight."

An undercover video shot by the group Truth Wins Out shows a Bachmann & Associates therapist telling a gay client that God designed men to be attracted to women, and with prayer and effort he could eventually become straight.

Both Drescher and Dr. Clinton Anderson of the American Psychological Association, the nation's leading professional organization for psychologists, told ABC News that efforts to convert patients from gay to straight not only don't work, they can actually harm patients.

"They may feel more depressed, more anxious, some people may feel more suicidal because this treatment didn't work," Drescher said. "There's a lot of technical language that sounds like mainstream psychology or mainstream psychiatry, but it's not."

Gay rights advocates decried the practice, circulating a petition calling on Bachmann to disavow the practice. Officials at the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign said they would be deeply concerned if federal or state funds went to support it.

"It would be a real disservice to the people who are harmed if any kind of public money were to be going towards the clinic that practiced them," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, the group's spokesman.

Bachmann & Associates has received tens of thousands of dollars in state and federal funds, but it is not clear whether any of the public money was used to support these therapies. Questions about this sent to the Bachmann campaign went unanswered.

Rep. Bachmann, her Congressional office, and her campaign staff remained silent on the issue, other than to say the congresswoman is proud of the Christian counseling center that she and her husband have co-owned since 2003. The center's website was unresponsive Tuesday.

On Capitol Hill, ABC News briefly caught up with Rep. Bachmann and asked her why she unwilling to discuss the methods used at the clinic.

"I'm focusing on turning the economy around and on jobs so that's what I'm focusing on," she responded as she hustled to her car.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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