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Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham speaks to reporters after announcing she is running for Florida governor in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Graham served one term in Congress, choosing not to seek re-election in 2016 after new congressional maps made her district firmly Republican. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

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Joe Henderson: Gwen Graham makes stand against conversion therapy quackery

So-called “conversion therapy” is only a thing because a segment of wingnut nation considers it a sacred duty to force its values on everyone. The practice goes on because too many lawmakers look the other way.

But it’s not therapy at all, at least as reasonably educated people understand the practice. It is, instead, medieval quackery on par with bloodletting and lobotomies.

What it does have is a high chance of inflicting real harm on someone who dares to be who they are.

It is outlawed in 12 states, and while Florida doesn’t have a blanket ban it is prohibited in 19 municipalities — including Tampa, Miami, and Palm Beach County. As Florida Politics reported, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham said Legislature should extend that ban to the entire state.

She is correct.  

Conversion therapy seeks to force, er, “convert” gay and transgender people into becoming straight people. What possibly could go wrong?

It usually is linked to conservative religious zealots, not to be confused with many mainline evangelicals who simply believe homosexuals may be born that way but can fight the “temptation.”

Because homosexuality it is not considered a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, treatment to “correct” that not only lacks scientific backup, it can actually be harmful to the person being “corrected.”

The so-called therapy can include electroshock treatments to induce seizures and memory loss, maybe so the one being “treated” will forget what vile people did that to him or her. It relies on basically brainwashing the treated person into hating themselves enough to “change.”

As Saul Levin, the APA’s Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director, American Psychiatric Association, noted, “(the treatment) does come bundled with a real group of potential risks, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.”

This “therapy” is not a new thing, but it gained increased attention when the Republican Party platform in 2016 tiptoed up to the edge of what many believed was an endorsement of the practice, declaring “right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.”

The key word — “therapy” — was seized upon by LGBTQ groups, but party officials denied there was any connection.

But it is a fact that many conservative Christians have a tough time separating the biblical declaration that homosexuality is a sin from the rights of people under the secular law. That may help explain why two attempts by Democrats to push through a law banning conversion therapy through the Legislature got nowhere.

Alas, even if Graham wins and becomes Governor, Democrats will be pressed to have enough legislative muscle to get this past Tallahassee Republicans. She could always try an executive order, as she hinted in a tweet, but opponents could challenge that in court.

Some conversions are a bridge too far, you know?

After all, can’t upset the base by endorsing science.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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