Michael Hamar

Holding "Ex-Gay" Programs Legally Liable For Harm

Filed By Michael Hamar | February 23, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Media, The Movement

Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal have teamed up to produce a booklet, Ex-Gay & The Law, that looks at the possible harmful effects of reparative therapy utilized by "ex-gay ministries" - which is condemned by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. More importantly, the booklet lays out steps those harmed by ex-gay ministries and their "counselors" should consider taking, including one or more lawsuits against the "ministry" and its counselors. Theories of recover of damages may vary based on the facts and laws of the state where the "therapy" is administered.

By holding ex-gay "ministries financially liable for the harm they do through successful lawsuits will do much to put an end to these bogus programs and also educate the larger public as to the witchdoctor like practices that occur in these so-called ministries. The fact that (1) reparative therapy is condemned by the legitimate experts and (2) the ex-gay ministries are aware of the position of legitimate experts sets the stage for possible negligence law suits and/or complaints against any licensed professionals who put religious fanaticism over scientific knowledge and engage in therapy regimes condemned by the true experts. A copy of the booklet is available here. Here are some highlights:

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.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | March 1, 2009 5:10 PM

Both TWO and Lambda Legal are great groups doing really important work.