Ex-Gays And The Law: Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal Offer Legal Advice
February 21st, 2009
Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal have released a booklet, Ex-Gay & The Law (PDF: 1.4MB/12pages), which provides an excellent overview by Wayne Besen of the ex-gay movement and its practitioners. The booklet aims to educate ex-gay survivors who believe they were harmed by their experiences about their legal options. From TWO’s press release:
Ex-Gay & the Law helps survivors of ex-gay programs explore their legal rights if they believe they have been harmed,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “This groundbreaking publication offers practical legal advice so important questions can be answered.”
“We are pleased to help support this publication and to be a part of this effort,” said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. “Groups that proclaim to ‘cure’ gay people of their sexual orientation lack any legitimate medical backing, cause harm, and sometimes operate unlawfully and unethically. If you have experienced any of the scenarios outlined in the last pages of Ex-Gay & the Law, we welcome you to contact or Legal Help Desk.”
I’ve looked over the pamphlet. While it is definitely an advocacy piece, it certainly matches what I’ve witnessed first-hand from personally attending Love Won Out conferences, the week-long Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, CA., the Family Impact Summit in Florida (where Exodus International president Alan Chambers described gays as following an “evil agenda”), and by talking with survivors of the Love In Action live-in ministry.
In fact, if anything I think Wayne might have soft-pedaled some of what goes on at the Love In Action live-in ministry on page 6. The worst abuse I learned — and this was confirmed by three separate people who attended Love In Action — occurred at the so-called “Friends and Family weekend.”
It goes like this: during the “client’s” stay at Love In Action, they are required to undergo an exhausted “personal inventory” in which they recount in explicit detail each and every sexual “sin” they have ever committed — whether it was detailed descriptions of sexual acts, or if they had been celibate then detailed descriptions of their sexual fantasies. Over the course of weeks and months, they revisit their personal inventory and add to it anything else that they may remember.
During the “Friends and Family Weekend,” friends and family members are invited to come to the Love In Action campus to visit with their “struggling” loved one. After a counseling session beforehand, they are ushered into a room and are seated on one side. The clients are then brought into the room and made to stand before their families and friends. They are then ordered to read aloud from their personal inventory — with complete details over their most humiliating sexual act or fantasy. This, they read aloud in front of their parents, friends, siblings — whoever happens to be there for the weekend.
Now I mentioned the counseling session beforehand. That is key. Visitors are advised ahead of time that they will likely hear something very disturbing from their loved one, and that a key component of this “therapy” is that they are not to offer any approval for their client. They can’t say, “we love you anyway”, they can’t say “we forgive you,” they can’t say anything positive. Instead, they are instructed to condemn their loved one, to tell them how disappointed they are, how disgusted they are, and so forth. The effects of this encounter have often been devastating to clients and family members alike.
As I said, I have independent corroboration from three different former clients. Some have been able to repair their relationships with their parents. But I do know that this isn’t always the case. The ruptured relationships between some and their family continues to this day. For too many fathers and mothers who heard their own son describe the intimate details of a sexual hook-up, they simply cannot look at him the same way again.
Lambda Legal advises:
Anyone who may have been harmed by any sort of counselor or therapist should contact Lambda Legal or a local lawyer as soon as possible. All states have a “statute of limitations” which limits the length of time for filing a lawsuit. These periods vary greatly, and may have exceptions if the patient is a minor. To best protect your legal rights, it is very important to consult an attorney sooner rather than later.
Whether or not someone can take legal action against an “ex-gay” counselor or facility will depend on factors including the law of the state where you met with the practitioner and the specific facts. There are many reasons “ex-gay” programs or practitioners may be liable for harm. If representatives of an “ex-gay” program make false claims, they may have committed fraud, breach of contract, or violated state laws against unfair business practices. If a practitioner does not adequately describe the potential harms of an “ex-gay” program, he or she may be liable for violating the duty to get consent from a person seeking care. If a practitioner is not qualified to provide therapy for a specific mental health condition and fails to refer to a qualified doctor or psychologist, he or she may be liable for negligence or violating rules governing professional licenses. If a counselor threatens to “out” you to your community if you decide you do not want to continue therapy, he or she may be liable under state law. If a practitioner tells third parties about details of your life or your same-sex attractions, that could violate your right to privacy. It is impossible to list all of the factors that might be important in evaluating whether or not someone harmed by an “exgay” program or practitioner may be able to sue in court or take other legal actions, so it is important to consult an attorney. Minors as well as adults have legal rights, including the right to consult with an attorney.
You can call Lambda Legal toll free at 866-542-8336.