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Could Dangerous Ex-Gay Therapy Soon Be Banned in the UK?

Could Dangerous Ex-Gay Therapy Soon Be Banned in the UK?

A English lawmaker has introduced a bill to ban ex-gay therapy throughout the UK.

Geraint Davies, Labour MP for Swansea West, has proposed a private members bill called the Counsellors and Psychotherapists (Regulation) Bill. The legislation, which has cross-party backing, will call for closer regulation of psychotherapy, formally state that ex-gay therapy is not an appropriate treatment for distress surrounding sexual orientation, and call for therapists who try to push ex-gay therapy to be banned from practicing.

This would formalize what are already standard guidelines used by the UK’s medical services who have condemned the practice of ex-gay therapy as potentially harmful and inappropriate.

Mr Davies, MP, is quoted as saying about the bill:

“This year a million Britons will seek psychotherapy, but currently anyone can set themselves up as a psychotherapist with no training or recourse for the patient when something goes wrong.

“This gives a free rein to those offering bogus treatments like conversion therapy. It’s a scandal that someone can offer this discredited, so-called treatment and still call themselves a professional therapist.

“The only way to stop this awful practice is to make regulation compulsory and to strike off anyone attempting to ‘cure’ a person’s sexual orientation.”

Earlier this year, an Early Day Motion was introduced by Sandra Osborne, Labour MP for Ayr Carrick and Cumnock, that sought to ban ex-gay therapy from being offered by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) — that is to say, paid for by the public — to those under the age of 18. Davies then offered an amended version that would ban the practice in its entirety. Mr. Davies has now decided to push the law in the House.

The Bill is expected to have its second reading debate on November 22, 2013, at which point a more accurate measure of support might be available.

However, the bill may face an uphill climb. The bill will need formal backing of party leaders and, simply due to other procedural matters, a busy legislative priority list appears unlikely to give the bill much room to gather momentum in the near-term, especially because next year campaigning will begin in earnest for the UK’s 2015 general election.

As such, this important bill might be seen as more of a first step toward writing into statute a ban on ex-gay therapy and a closer regulation of psychotherapy as a whole.

Yet it is likely to meet strong resistance from religious conservatives who have shown a keen interest in exploiting ex-gay therapy to keep alive religious privilege.

Ex-Gay Therapy in the UK: More Vocal and More of a Threat

While ex-gay therapy is not perceived as a major issue, the practice of attempting to offer cures to gay people appears to have gained ground in recent years.

Gay journalist Patrick Strudwick went undercover in 2009 and exposed how a number of therapists were offering gay cure therapies. In particular, Strudwick received two counselling sessions from Ms. Leslie Pilkington who offered to provide him with “Christian” counseling to overcome his so-called same-sex attraction.

Strudwick later made a formal complaint to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), which found Ms. Pilkington guilty of professional malpractice in 2011. While Pilkington appealed that particular charge, she remains unable to practice pyschotherapy in the UK.

What’s more, there’s a rising Christian evangelical influence that has been partly aided by special interest groups with strong links to the United States, a small but vocal group of so-called ex-gays who have made their presence felt in the UK.

A recent flashpoint has been Transport for London’s refusal to allow an ex-gay slogan “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” to appear on the side of London buses. An ex-gay group backed by the religious conservative Core Issues Trust, which appears to have heavy ties with the widely discredited American group the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, wanted to run the ads to counter Stonewall’s national “Some People are Gay. Get over it! ” campaign. TfL refused on the grounds that the ad could cause grave offense. An appeals court, while saying that TfL’s refusal was “unfair,” deemed it lawful. The case is still ongoing, and an appeal is set for the 9th or 10th of December.

What this serves to demonstrate is that the ex-gay message is actively being used by religious conservatives, apparently as part of a wider effort to chip away at the UK’s strict equality laws.

Any attempt to write a ban on ex-gay therapy into statute will likely then have to confront this issue head-on. There may, however, be reason to be cautious on that front, simply because ex-gay therapy supporters appear to be itching for a legal fight and the prospect of having ex-gay therapy upheld by the court system.

As such, ensuring that the legislation is as secure as possible without appearing to or actually infringing on civil or religious liberties will be vital, as will showcasing the multitude of harms that have been reported as a result of both minors and vulnerable adults being subjected to ex-gay therapy.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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88 comments

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4:48AM PST on Feb 15, 2014

dear sir or vagina:

i didn't CHOOSE TO like beer. i didn't CHOOSE TO like smoking. i didn't CHOOSE TO like gambling. i am VERY OFFENDED and concerned of the damage that "counseling" and talk-therapy is doing to people...as well as one person in particular - ME.

we all are "born this way". a liar is any "counselor" who says that he can change the way a person IS. a liar is any "music therapist" who says that music can change peoples' moods and outlooks. a liar is any "marriage counselor" who says that he can piece-together a broken relationship.

who are courts to mandate that anyone receive behavior-counseling? what year are we in - hasn't the whole "counseling" and feel-good "therapy" industry been recognized as the fraud that it is? nobody can change other people, people are BORN WITH enough information about the world to have been given a complete identity AT BIRTH. the way that anyone is...is simply predetermined. however we are, we were BORN THIS WAY.

a liar is any "counselor" who says that he can change the way a person IS. a liar is any "music therapist" who says that music can change peoples' moods and outlooks. a liar is any "marriage counselor" who says that he can piece-together a broken relationship.

who are psychologists and "counselors" to say that they can change me into a non-gambling (dare i say "perfect") man? who are psychologists to say that, just by talking to me, they can change my dependancy on slot-machines? people who try to "help" the g

7:45AM PST on Nov 6, 2013

I am a licensed therapist and have worked with many LGBT clients over the decades. I have listened to abominable horror stories from dear souls who have been bullied, shamed, abused, and, yes, 'prayed over' in an effort to 'pray away their gay-ness'...week after week, year after year. And still, they remained 'gay' because that is the way they were born. Most of them have said that if they COULD change, they WOULD -- because living as a gay in a mostly-straight world was so difficult. In an effort to illustrate the absurdity of trying to 'pray away' one's 'gayness' I give you my song, '(Let Us Help You) Pray The 'Straight' Away'. What if gays suddenly decided to 'turn the tables' and began to try and convert straight folks into gay folks -- AND they used the very same tactics, phrases, and condescending attitude that have been forced upon LGBTs for years? Would their results yield success? Hell no -- because we are born either straight or gay!
The song sounds 'funny' but its message is quite serious to me...and i'm hoping that the combination of humor and music just might open up a few more minds and hearts:).

http://youtu.be/FNrb43_9meg (Let Us Help You) Pray Your 'Straight' Away

1:00AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

So I trust this bill will fail.

12:42AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

I am given to understand that no-one is born gay, it's a result of conditioning. I've met people who are ex-gay.

1:54PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

Are the courts and legitimate therapists this weak?

3:12AM PDT on Nov 1, 2013

Ban it now!

4:30AM PDT on Oct 30, 2013

ty

12:24PM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

ty

9:11AM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

I too believe these counselors/therapists are charlatans....there is no good proof that they can counsel the gayness out of gay people. And why would we want to? If its a choice, its theirs to make, no one else. If it bothers people, then too bad. WAKE UP PEOPLE - this is the 21st century, get your arses out of the 16th century and get real. Let people make up their own minds as to what they are and are not and leave them be. GAY is not a disease, GAY is not a problem, only closed minded bigots are diseased with bigotry! Bigotry is a disease - of hate! And that IS NOT WHAT JESUS WOULD DO!

7:13AM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

I believe many of these "counselors" are just charlatans, and the government would do well to make this practice a crime of fraud to protect everyone concerned. Thank you for sharing.

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