Del. Jon S. Cardin Announces Bill to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy for Children

Del. Jon S. Cardin Announces Bill to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy for Children

Cardin says every legitimate medical association calls gay conversion therapy both ineffective and damaging to children’s long term health

Annapolis, MD – Delegate Jon S. Cardin will introduce a bill prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from practicing therapies on children, designed to change their sexual orientation – often called gay conversion, reparative or ex-gay therapies.

Delegate Cardin said, “The major medical and psychological organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have recognized that being gay is not a disease or a choice. It is not something you can change with any therapy. Attempting to change sexual orientation with ‘therapy’ does a child far more harm than good.”

Linda Goldman, M.S., LCPC, a therapist, adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and King’s College, and author of Coming Out Coming In: Nurturing the Well Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society said gay conversion therapy “assumes the false notion that sexual orientation is a choice. In 1973, the term ‘homosexuality’ was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) list of mental and emotional disorders, and in 2011, the US Surgeon General said it is not ‘a reversible life choice.’ In 1998, the APA stated that reparative therapy’s ‘attempts to change sexual orientation are ‘in-effective, however, the potential risks are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.’ Leading health-professionals, regulatory bodies, and professional organizations do not support efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation through therapy and discount the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or abnormal.“

Similar bills outlawing gay conversion therapy have been passed in California and New Jersey, with several states including Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Washington, D.C. considering similar laws.  The California bill was recently affirmed as constitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pickup v. Brown (2013). Delegate Cardin’s bill is modeled after both the California bill and the constitutional instructions given by the 9th Circuit in Pickup including its definitions, exceptions and punishment provisions, in order to defeat any First Amendment free speech challenges. Further, the bill’s coverage is limited to treatment of minors and in no way affects the ability of religious leaders or organizations from teaching or advising their congregants on issues of sexual orientation.

Delegate Cardin continued, “It is hard enough coming out to your family, friends and community. We should support these brave young people. They should not have to fear their parents will send them away to ‘ex-gay’ camps or doctors as soon as they come out. This bill helps create a supportive rather than stigmatized environment for young people making the courageous decision to come out. “

David Christie, a victim of gay conversion therapy stated that while struggling with his sexuality in gay conversion treatment he “constantly battled feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred and guilt,” which “led to a chronic depression for which I had to take costly medications from my late teens until I finally came out, at the age of 28. On a few occasions, in panicked despair, I seriously contemplated suicide.”[1]

Another victim, Peterson Toscano, told the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), “I spent seventeen years and over $30,000 on three continents trying to change, or at least suppress, my orientation and gender differences, resulting in significant psychological damage that has taken me years to overcome.”[2]

Gay youth are more than 4 times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. Further, a San Francisco State University study of LGBT teens showed that teens that weren't accepted by their families were 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than teens that were accepted by their families.  These teens were also 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression, more than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs, and 3 times more likely to be at a high risk for HIV and other STDs.

While gay conversion advocacy groups such as the National Association for Reparative Therapy of Homosexuality pose a threat to children nationwide, gay conversion therapy is practiced by numerous mental health professionals and organizations right here in Maryland. A quick search on the website of Focus on the Family reveals many therapists whose specialization is gay conversion therapy with offices from Annapolis to Cumberland.[3]

Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Maryland (GLCCB), Matt Thorn said, "The shame, humiliation, and psychological harm that these antiquated, renounced conversion therapies have on our LGBT youth is overwhelming. It’s unsettling to think that, in 2013, Maryland’s children are still being exposed to this dangerous practice of ‘ex-gay’ reparative therapy. We applaud Delegate Cardin for having the courage to introduce this legislation and shed light on this harmful, hateful practice. "

More alarmingly, the Prince George’s County Public School system recently screened a video to middle school students titled “Acception,” which features an interview with a gay-to-straight therapist and tells the story of a woman whose same sex attraction was ALLEGEDLY cured by gay conversion therapy, allowing her to be accepted by her family. Further, Richard Cohen, a former youth counselor permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002 and founder of International Healing Foundation, an in-famous ex-gay conversion organization based in Bowie, Maryland, sits on the Prince Georges County Schools Health Council.[4]


Delegate Anne Kaiser, a member of the LGBT Caucus and a co-sponsor of Delegate Cardin’s bill, said “Gay conversion therapy is dangerous, unhealthy and is opposed by legitimate medical practitioners. I am proud to co-sponsor this important legislative effort that will support the health and well-being of all Maryland children.” In the Maryland Senate, the bill will be cross-filed by Senator Richard Madaleno, a member of the Senate LGBT caucus.

Delegate Cardin concluded, “My vision is a state where all children both are and feel protected from undue pressures that could lead to harm or suicide. Maryland should be a place where no one in the LGBTQ community feels threatened, be they gay youth in their homes and schools or transgender adults in the workplace. I look forward to seeing this bill pass as well another equal rights bill, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, a bill to rid our workplaces of discrimination against transgender individuals. Unfortunately, that bill died in Senator Frosh’s Judicial Proceedings Committee last year, but I am hopeful it will pass this time around.”