POLITICS

Maryland Lawmaker Accuses Gay Conversion Group Of Profiting Off Ignorance, Traumatizing Teens

03/27/2014 03:10 pm ET | Updated Mar 27, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Maryland state Del. Jon Cardin (D) accused advocates for so-called gay conversion therapy of “preaching false science” that traumatizes teenagers and profits off the "ignorance" of others in an open letter Thursday to the International Healing Foundation, a gay conversion nonprofit.

On March 14, Cardin had announced a joint effort with groups supporting LGBT rights -- including Equality Maryland, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union -- to publicize the power of state health occupation boards to investigate licensed health care professionals who treat children with conversion therapy. The groups argue that such efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity violate the standard of care.

In a March 25 statement, the International Healing Foundation accused Cardin of making "defamatory statements" about its work.

“Cardin’s statements regarding our work with those who experience unwanted SSA [same-sex attraction] is equivalent to discrimination,” said Christopher Doyle, the foundation's director. “It is outrageous that a state-elected official would discourage, or believe it’s a problem, for a sexual minority population to pursue a therapy that is both legal and ethical,” Doyle said.

In his open letter, Cardin responded:

From the information I have gleaned from your website and other propaganda, your organization has one purpose: to teach people that being gay is wrong and to profit off of the ignorance of those who agree with you. You think you’re treating mental illnesses. In reality you very well may be creating them while traumatizing teenagers and others by promoting the arcane idea that any sexual orientation or gender identity besides heterosexuality is something that needs to be fixed.

You claim you are embracing these individuals who come to you for help with respect and love, but you are denying liability for further stigmatizing a community that should be accepted for who they are. Might it be misguided approaches like yours that make LGBTQ youth attempt suicide at a rate of four times higher than their straight peers? Might it be because of your philosophy that we still have not achieved equal rights for all Marylanders regardless of sexual orientation or identity? ...

I respect and will defend your right to believe what you want to believe and practice medicine meeting recognized standards of care. However, you do not have a right to inflict a lifetime of serious psychological damage on children by preaching false science disguised as medicine. I welcome any investigations you or your lawyers wish to pursue.

Cardin first introduced HB 91, a bill to ban "sexual orientation change efforts" involving minors, in January, but withdrew the proposal in March after exploring the regulatory oversight option with LGBT rights experts.

Similar measures prohibiting gay conversion therapy have passed in California and New Jersey, while lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Washington, D.C., have considered comparable proposals.

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