Ex-Gays And The Law: Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal Offer Legal Advice

Jim Burroway

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.


February 21st, 2009

This is so sad! You mean to tell me that homosexuals and lesbians willingly took part in this “therapy?”

Maybe that’s the real problem.

Regan DuCasse

February 21st, 2009

If a someone claiming to be a doctor or expert(without a license or peer reviewed practice or experience), told a person with an attribute that has a legacy of social and political stigma, that they had a particular therapy or discipline, then proceeded to use fear, negative reinforcement of stereotypes, emotional blackmail and deprivation: that person would be called by some authority and likely criminally charged with neglect and ultimately placed on probation so they couldn’t operate again.

I still can’t understand how anyone claiming they can make someone alter their sexual orientation and in ways that are humiliating, silly or downright confusing, and do so without any licensing or reviews from established medical and psychiatric entities.

We know the APA doesn’t condone these practices, but why DON’T state boards get involved and shut this stuff down because they DO abuse vulnerable people?

Political and social stigma cannot be held as the only way to get away with such activity.
And ‘the Bible told us so’, is even LESS reason as well.

We live in an age where medical and psychiatric ethics because these are quality of life matters.
A clinical condition that renders a person incapable of living independently and competently are the typical guidelines for ANY kind of intervention.

Homosexuality is not in that category, and ethical as well as competent doctors agree that repressed sexuality and love starvation ARE unhealthy.
Which is essentially what the ex gay industry practices and EXCLUSIVELY on gay people and requires of them, with no proof that changing orientation is NECESSARY.
Unless heterosexuals are treated the same way for the same issues that negatively impact THEIR lives.

I may not be very coherent about this.
But why IS IT so easy for groups and organizations to legally operate and do as they do against gay people?

Since gay folks are too small a political minority to engage the legislature or legal authorities democratically, it’s up to the consciousness of the state that mental and social abuse exclusively used against gay youth in particular not be allowed, if not outright criminalized.
Which, I think it should be.

Regan DuCasse

February 21st, 2009

Exodus gives their activity warm and fuzzy names. They sound compassionate in their titles.

But they are messing with whole lives here. I don’t think TWO or Lamda should wait until someone is already impacted by Exodus.

I was working with a few lawyers here at Williams Institute over shutting down groups like Exodus and so on because of FTC violations as well as violations concerning APA and AMA.

For the aforementioned reasons.

A doctor or psychiatrist cannot exploit racism and racist policies for example and arrange their entire practice around telling blacks, ‘yes, you’re inferior, our culture won’t accept you and btw…you can’t be involved in ‘our institutions’ the ones set up by white people because YOU didn’t help build it and will tear it down if we let you.
Since the Bible gives me my license to tell you all this, then here’s some mental disciplines so you won’t feel so bad about what happens to you in the world.’

And in effect, if that doctor creates a docile, black person that won’t challenge the status quo, then the doctor has done his job.

But for WHO did he really?

That’s what I see in my observations about the ex gay industry.
Putting a smiling face on a practice that exploits the worst and basest of human behaviors, and repackages it, as Wayne says, to fool the buyer.

Jim Crow reinforced the myth that blacks were unwelcome and a threat to white society and power.
Exodus does that too, in a different way, but no less sinister.
Because essentially they are saying: you, as a gay person are of absolutely NO VALUE. You cannot be and will not be trusted.

It’s only that, like blacks, gay people as a minority don’t have the political clout to balance things and the expectations are to wait for the consciousness of the dominant culture to catch up.

But as I said, our nation is STILL damaged from Jim Crow and blacks aren’t trusted as much as whites.
The shame of that trust being broken, can’t be put on gay people, any more than on blacks.


February 21st, 2009

I’m extremely proud of LAMBDA Legal and Wayne Besen for providing this ground breaking research and legal help for those who have suffered abuse (sometimes tremendous abuse) at the hands of pseudo-psychologists and pseudo-therapists. I anxiously await the publication of this booklet. I have more than one friend whom this information might help a great deal. I hope and pray that these kinds of “programs” and their so-called “therapy” will one day be outlawed. It’s so incredibly unhealthy. Don’t these people have any Idea about how much damage shame does to a person? It robs a person of their personhood. It strips them of their own autonomy and shame is also coupled with immense fear which cripples a person in virtually every aspect of his or her life. This is insidious and it has to be exposed and legally dealt with.


February 21st, 2009

I have always wondered why these folks weren’t being sued for fraud. They make all sorts of promises, but have absolutely no evidence that anything that they do ever changes orientation.

Wayne Besen routinely describes the whole ex-gay industry as snake-oil salesmen, and I think that is perhaps the best way to think about them. So many victims have spent Lord knows how many dollars, and they still have no convincing evidence that anyone has actually changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Anyone up for a Nigerian email scam???

Regan DuCasse

February 21st, 2009

Hi John!
That’s exactly why I had the idea of the FTC getting involved. Exodus and the others are pretty all for profit businesses. But they deal in a very murky area that doesn’t have a ‘buyer beware’ sort of disclaimer that applies in any other areas.
The psychological arena has very serious licensing and care guidelines as well as ethical ones.
Starting with DIAGNOSIS to confront a problem effectively.
If the diagnosis isn’t correct, than the application can’t be.
And Exodus and that entire industry misguide AND misdiagnose as well as take away their own culpability and ‘blame the client’ if results are unsatisfactory.

But given the socio/political climate against gay people, exploiting is even LESS commercially ethical.
This doesn’t rely on individuals seeking out their services without PRESSURE from somewhere, however much they deny it.

And such pressure would be considered wrongful in a psychological setting over something that isn’t URGENT.
There is no crisis of mental health. No urgency for intervention, so the FTC would also have to look at that as well.

Anyway, people ARE playing with lives here. With changing what otherwise has the potential to BE healthy BUT for their interference. Which is the other reason why they should be shut down.
And the state SHOULD commit to oversight on these organizations.
This isn’t free speech.
Being in church and participating in a SHARED situation where the expectations are all fairly equal is different.

Placing undue pressure on a person for their orientation IS discriminatory at best, abusive at worst.
And religious entities shouldn’t be engaged in that either.


February 21st, 2009

I wonder if Exodus and all the rest will use “religious exemptions” to allow them to operate outside the purview of the FTC?

Claiming that their work is religious based and not just for profit.


February 23rd, 2009

I had a friend who went through one of LIA’s live in programs. After one of the family weekends another young woman who was part of the program killed herself because her family told her they would never be able to accept her.

How in the world does this happen today in America ?


February 25th, 2009

I’m wondering about if the electro-shock therapies administered by authorities at BYU would fall into this category?

Could former victims sue the University and, by extension, the LDS Church?

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