Group Planning Legal Action Against DC for Banning Conversion Therapy for Gay Youth

The John A. Wilson Building in Washington, DC. It houses the offices and chambers of the Mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia. It was constructed in 1908 and originally known as the District Building. | (Photo: Awiseman at en.wikipedia)

An ex-gay organization is planning legal action against the District of Columbia for its recent banning of conversion therapy, also called Sexual Orientation Change Efforts therapy, for minors.

Voice of the Voiceless, an organization focused on ex-gay rights and recognition, is in the early stages of planning to bring legal action against the government of the nation's Capital over the recently passed bill.

Christopher Doyle, president and co-founder of VoV, told The Christian Post that at present they are seeking a plaintiff to bring a case against the new law.

"We are still seeking a plaintiff (minor and their family) who has been disenfranchised by this law in the District, but at this point, we cannot find a licensed practitioner who even practices SOCE therapy in the District, nor can we identify a client who has been disenfranchised," said Doyle.

Doyle also told CP that he believed the new law, B20-0501, violates the District's Human Rights Act as it curbs options for minors with unwanted same-sex attraction.

"The discrimination this law will enact will actually violate Washington, DC's Human Rights Act, which provides protection against sexual orientation discrimination towards those who identify as ex-gay in the District. This would apply to minors who have unwanted SSA and seek change," said Doyle.

Christopher Doyle, president of the ex-gay group Voice of the Voiceless. | (Photo courtesy Doyle)

"Churches and faith-based organizations ... should contact our organization if they feel one of their member's families or children would like to see SOCE therapy in the District but cannot because of the law, and we will assist them in finding legal counsel."

Known called the "Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act of 2014," the bill was introduced by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh in October 2013.

B20-0501 amended the Mental Health Service Delivery Reform Act of 2001 with the intention of barring SOCE therapy for minors.

Sometimes called "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy," SOCE therapy seeks to change the sexual preferences of a patient from homosexual to heterosexual.

"A provider shall not engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a consumer who is a minor," read the bill.

"A violation … shall be considered a failure to conform to acceptable conduct within the mental health profession under section 514(a)(26) of the District of Columbia Health Occupation Revision Act of 1985, effective March 26, 1986 … and shall subject a provider to discipline and penalties under 514(c) of the District of Columbia Health Occupation Revision Act of 1985."

The bill was referred to the Committee on Health in October 2013, but was not given a notice of public hearing until several months later in May of 2014.

Last summer, the bill was given a public hearing where both proponents and opponents of the SOCE therapy gave testimony to the Council.

In early December, DC Council voted unanimously in favor of the bill, with the expectation being that Mayor Vincent Gray would sign the bill into law.

Later that month Mayor Gray did just that, giving remarks before signing the bill outside his office before a crowd that included LGBT activists.

"I am proud to sign a bill that protects youth and their families from the discredited practice of conversion therapy," stated Gray, as reported by the Washington Blade.

The District of Columbia joins California and New Jersey as the three jurisdictions in the United States that prohibit SOCE therapy for minors.

Similar measures have failed, however, in several other states including Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia, have blocked or withdrawn similar proposed pieces of legislation.

"The decision by the Council and the Mayor signing this bill into law is completely political," said Doyle regarding the DC law.

"We have repeatedly requested information to substantiate the allegations of the those who testified against SOCE, and the Council has refused to investigate these claims of 'abuse' and 'coercion' from those who testified, nor have they made any effort to verify whether these stories are true, to our knowledge."

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