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'Gay cure' debate takes place in Parliament

A debate on whether it's right to offer sexual reorientation therapy to people with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction has taken place in Parliament today. A panel of experts discussed the issue at a time when many professional bodies disapprove of this type of service.

Organised by Christian Concern, it was attended by Professor Michael King, Director of Mental Health Sciences Unit at the University of College London; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell; Dr Joseph Berger, a Consultant Psychiatrist for the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Canada; and Dr Mike Davidson, Director of Core Issues Trust.

Mr Tatchell told Premier's Victoria Laurence on the News Hour there's no hard evidence that sexual reorientation therapy actually works:

In 2007, American doctors Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse published a study of whether sexual orientation can change and whether attempts to change sexual orientation are harmful. Evidence suggested that change appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process.

However, in 2009 the American Psychological Association found that conversion therapies have little evidence to back them up. Dr Berger told Premier's Victoria Laurence on the News Hour he believes it can work. 

The issue has continued to court controversy with several high profile disputes settled last year.  In May, a Christian counsellor who practised a so-called 'gay cure' was struck off.

Lesley Pilkington lost her appeal over performing reparative therapy on an undercover reporter posing as gay man wanting to become heterosexual.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) says she was guilty of professional malpractice despite being misled by the journalist.

It instructed Ms Pilkington to undertake retraining and change her approach to gay people.  But the appeal panel ruled that the therapy itself did not breach professional standards. Meanwhile, in April, an advertising campaign which suggested gay people could be "cured" was banned from London buses. The campaign claimed therapy could change sexual orientation. Transport for London confirmed the adverts had been scrapped after receiving complaints.

The adverts would have read, "Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!"  The slogan followed Stonewall's motto: "Some people are gay. Get over it!", which ran on London's buses two years ago.

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