By Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director for Lambda Legal, Sept. 11, 2014.
Dear Ask Lambda Legal,
My university’s LGBT center was recently approached by a group that said by law we have to carry materials that promote “ex-gay therapy.” Is this true?
Lambda Legal: From time to time staff or students at universities contact us with similar questions, and thankfully the short answer is, no, the law does not require LGBT centers at universities or colleges to offer material on “converting” or “repairing” anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Recently, Lambda Legal responded to an organized attack on this front against public universities throughout Virginia, and we also provided legal information to staff of LGBT centers nationwide approached by an organization that said campus LGBT centers had to carry ex-gay promotional material. The group argued that because the universities are public and receive government funds, the First Amendment requires that they must not engage in “viewpoint discrimination,” excluding ex-gay materials from the information they offer.
The truth is that the First Amendment’s important protections against viewpoint discrimination do not apply to this specific situation. LGBT centers at universities are not created as public forums where free speech rights apply. It’s similar to college curricula. For example, a history class is not required to include material from Holocaust deniers to “balance out” factual accounts of the annihilation of Jews, gay people, disabled people, and others targeted in World War II concentration camps.
LGBT centers at universities exist primarily to provide information and support for students on campus who identify as LGBT. They don’t have to display information on disproven or dangerous practices that don’t help or support LGBT people.
The leading medical and psychological associations in the United States have issued official statements against “conversion therapy,” noting there is no proof that any therapy can change sexual orientation or gender identity, or that any such practice benefits rather than risks harm to the people who receive it.
Both California and New Jersey have outlawed “conversion therapy” for minors. The laws were celebrated across the country, but immediately — though unsuccessfully — challenged in court by those who think being LGBT should be changed.
Lambda Legal joined both cases as a friend-of-the-court on behalf of organizations working with LGBT youth. We urged the courts to uphold the laws prohibiting state-licensed mental health providers from using dangerous change efforts with minors.
We will continue to oppose these so-called “therapies” and remain vigilant when people who claim they can change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity attempt to bully LGBT-supportive spaces into offering their propaganda.
Lambda Legal is the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men and people with HIV/AIDS. You can contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk at 866-545-8336 with your legal questions, or visit lambdalegal.org for more information.