In Illinois, gay conversion therapy bill passes, and front-page Chicago Tribune story misses the mark

Here's the lede:

Following a series of big wins during the past decade that culminated in the approval of same-sex marriage in Illinois, the new cause for gay rights supporters at the Capitol is banning conversion therapy on minors — a controversial practice aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation from gay to straight.
The effort gained momentum Tuesday as the Illinois House voted to approve the measure 68-43 after the bill failed in the chamber last year. The bill now goes to the Senate, which tends to be more liberal.

Under the proposal, mental health providers would be barred from engaging in treatment aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors. Psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors caught doing so could be deemed as engaging in unprofessional conduct by state regulators and face disciplinary action ranging from monetary fines, probation, or temporary or permanent license revocation.

See any problem with that?

To that question, a fellow GetReligionista replied:

You mean other than the lede misstating the goals of most people who do this work, focusing on behavior rather than the mystery of orientation? 

For much more insight on that, I strongly urge you to click the link and read tmatt's post from last month. For a little more background, see a Christianity Today story I wrote in 2009 on "sexual identity therapy," which focuses on helping a person live in a way that is consistent with his or her beliefs. 

Back to the Tribune story: To its credit, the Chicago newspaper does reflect, to some extent, the complicated nature of this discussion:

Some Democrats also raised concerns, including Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, who voted against the conversion therapy ban last year and did not vote Tuesday. Rita argues the government needs to be careful about limiting counseling to people who are looking for help.

"I think it's a very slippery slope, and when we're dealing with issues where people are seeking help, we should be careful on how we limit that help," he said.

Others insist conversion therapy can be helpful to youths who don't want to be attracted to the same sex.

David Pickup, who practices the therapy in Texas, testified against Illinois' potential ban, saying it robs youths of the opportunity to seek help for unwanted same-sex attraction. He said not all conversion therapists treat homosexuality as a disease or shame their patients, and that the "real thing" helped save his life after he experienced attraction to men.

"This bill robs, I assure you, this bill robs that person for whom homosexuality does not represent their authentic selves," he told lawmakers. "This bill attempts very laudably to protect one group of people but at the demise of another group of people."

As the Tribune notes, the Illinois measure now goes to the state Senate.

Stay tuned.

Illinois Capitol image via

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