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Virginia Pilot: Bill banning gay conversion therapy fails in Va. House Print


Created:  January 31, 2014


Parents may continue to send their children to gay conversion therapy, which seeks to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, after a bill to outlaw the practice failed in a House subcommittee Thursday.

The proposal drew emotional testimony from supporters and opponents alike before a House Health, Welfare and Institutions Subcommittee voted it down.

While growing up, Alexandria's Gail Dickert, 35, said she was subjected to conversion therapy by people from various churches her family attended in different parts of the country.

As young as age 5, those parishioners told her she was "lost and confused" because she had a crush on a female classmate. They said she would be bullied for being "not right with God" and that she couldn't pursue her desired career in the church if she didn't change.

It took her more than 20 years to recover from the emotional scars the therapy inflicted, scars no child should have to bear, Dickert said.

Others said the therapy worked for them.

Christopher Doyle, a 32-year-old man from Northern Virginia, said he struggled with unwanted homosexual feelings until he sought therapy in his early 20s. For him, sexual abuse and other issues were at the root of his attraction to men, he said.

He's now been happily married to a woman for seven years and works as a licensed clinical professional counselor assisting others who struggle with homosexuality.

"I am truly living my dream today, with no same-sex attractions," Doyle said. "No one is simply born a homosexual.... This legislation is not about protecting young people; it's really about imposing a political agenda."

But for children, being forced to change can be irreparably harmful, said Del. Patrick Hope, an Arlington Democrat who was the patron for the bill. Studies have shown conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy, to be ineffective at changing sexual orientation or gender identity, he said. And it is opposed by many medical professionals, including the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association.

Hope's bill would have prohibited licensed medical professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of a minor and would not have applied to clergy.

The subcommittee's members did not say why they opposed the legislation.

"I think that people in Virginia still believe that homosexuality is some sort of mental disorder," Hope said after the vote. "But I think hearts and minds are changing every day.... And we'll come back every year until this becomes law."