NCLR Representing Conversion Therapy Survivor who Alleges Sexual Abuse by School Leader After Coming Out

DeSOTO COUNTY, Miss. (August 27, 2014)—Yesterday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) helped file a complaint with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of a former student of Bethel Baptist School in Walls, Mississippi who says he was sexually abused for three years by a teacher attempting to “cure” his sexual orientation.

The former student, Jeff White, now 32, alleges that, shortly after coming out in 1996, his parents turned to the local church, which ran a school it promised could “cure” their son and stop him from being gay. Beginning his freshman year, according to White, teacher Steven Barnes began subjecting White to weekly “counseling” sessions in which he regularly raped and sexually assaulted the teenager to convince him that being gay was more painful than suppressing his sexual orientation.

After more than a decade of emotional turmoil, White heard about NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy in five years. He found the courage to come forward because he wants to ensure that what happened to him will not happen to other children and to raise awareness about the dangers of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation.

“After growing older and witnessing so many who are still harmed by the church and by efforts to correct homosexuality through traumatic and damaging tactics like the ones used against me, I finally realized that it is my duty to stand up against those who have harmed me,” said White. “By speaking out against the wrongdoings that were committed within the walls of Bethel Baptist School, I hope to shed light on the darkness that is so easily hidden within the church, and to help ensure that no one else suffers the pain that I had to endure. I am extremely grateful to NCLR staff attorney Sam Ames and the NCLR team for assisting me and so many others who have been hurt by the immoral practices of conversion therapy.”

White is now the executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center, the first LGBT center in the state. Barnes is now the Assistant Pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Walls, MS. NCLR is joined in this case by Hawkins & Gibson, PLLC, a law firm with a long history fighting for the rights of children abused by adults in positions of authority, including members of the clergy.

In June, NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign to protect LGBT kids from the harms caused by attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT kids from these practices for more than 20 years, successfully working to help draft and pass California’s Senate Bill 1172 in 2012, the nation’s first to protect LGBT children from the dangers of conversion therapy. The following year, NCLR helped New Jersey pass a similar law and is now working with legislators and LGBT leaders in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to LGBT kids across the country.

Through #BornPerfect, NCLR provides state legislators and LGBT leaders with comprehensive resources and a solid foundation to build statewide campaigns; works closely with state legislators and LGBT leaders throughout the legislative process, including drafting legislation, coordinating hearings with key witnesses, and gaining support to pass legislation; raises awareness about these dangerous practices and the lasting harm they cause in the lives of LGBT children by empowering survivors and providing them with the support to speak out about their experiences; and fights in court for the safety and well-being of LGBT kids.

Members of Former Ex-Gay Leaders Alliance

Former ‘Ex-Gay’ Movement Denounce Leaders Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (July 31, 2014)—Today, nine former leaders of so-called “ex-gay” ministries published a joint letter denouncing the dangerous practices of conversion therapy and lending their support to the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy in five years.

In the deeply personal letter, these nine leaders—including founders of Exodus International and Coming Back—recall their own struggles with being LGBT and what led them to propagate these ministries. After long and painful journeys, each ultimately came to the conclusion that conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries are ineffective and harmful, especially to LGBT youth, and can have disastrous consequences.

In the letter, they state: “As former ex-gay leaders, having witnessed the incredible harm done to those who attempted to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we join together in calling for a ban on conversion therapy. It is our firm belief that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives. We fully support the aim of #BornPerfect to bring an end to conversion therapy.”

The letter was signed by: Brad Allen, former church network coordinator for Exodus International; Darlene Bogle, founder and former director of Paraklete Ministries; Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International; Catherine Chapman, former Women’s Ministry director for the Portland Fellowship; Jeremy Marks, founder of Courage UK and Exodus Europe; Bill Prickett, founder and former executive director of Coming Back; Tim Rymel, former outreach director of Love in Action; Yvette Cantu Schneider, former executive director of Living in Victory Ministry and director of women’s ministry for Exodus International; and John J. Smid, former executive director of Love In Action and board member for Exodus International.

NCLR launched #BornPerfect in June to protect LGBT kids from the harms caused by attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT kids from these practices for more than 20 years, successfully working to help draft and pass California’s Senate Bill 1172 in 2012, the nation’s first to protect LGBT children from the dangers of conversion therapy. The following year, NCLR helped New Jersey pass a similar law and is now working with legislators and LGBT leaders in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to LGBT kids across the country.

“We are committed to protecting LGBT children and their families from the severe harms caused by these dangerous practices,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “These practices have been thoroughly discredited by every major mental health organization, and yet, every day, young lives are wrecked. We intend to stop the practices once and for all.”

Through #BornPerfect, NCLR:

  • Provides state legislators and LGBT leaders with comprehensive resources and a solid foundation to build statewide campaigns;
  • Works closely with state legislators and LGBT leaders throughout the legislative process, including drafting legislation, coordinating hearings with key witnesses, and gaining support to pass legislation;
  • Raises awareness about these dangerous practices and the lasting harm they cause in the lives of LGBT children by empowering survivors and providing them with the support to speak out about their experiences;
  • Fights in court for the safety and well-being of LGBT kids.

Booking & Interviews

Contact NCLR Director of Communications Christopher Vasquez at cvasquez@NCLRights.org to arrange interviews with survivors of these practices, therapists who work with survivors, and NCLR staff about the campaign.

Read the letter.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Federal Court Rejects Second Lawsuit Challenging New Jersey Law Prohibiting Conversion Therapy for Minors

TRENTON, N.J. (July 31, 2014)—Today, Judge Freda Wolfson of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a lawsuit that challenged a 2013 New Jersey law prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of a patient under 18 years old. The judge also granted a request by Garden State Equality, the state’s largest civil rights organization and the leading organization supporting passage of the law, to intervene in the case in defense of the law.

Today’s decision follows Judge Wolfson’s November 2013 decision dismissing a similar challenge to the law filed on behalf of therapists who wish to engage in these dangerous and long-discredited practices. That earlier decision is now on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which heard argument in the case on July 9.

In today’s ruling, Judge Wolfson concluded that “the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful or ineffective.” Garden State Equality is represented in the case by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and GluckWalrath LLP.

In 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision upholding a similar law in California protecting youth from these harmful practices. On June 30, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to further review that case. Similar legislation prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change minors’ sexual orientation or gender identity also has been proposed in several other states.

Statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.:

“We are very pleased that Judge Wolfson has again upheld this life-saving law. This law protects New Jersey’s youth from dangerous and discredited practices that have been rejected by the country’s leading medical and mental health organizations. Although well-meaning parents often think they are helping their children by sending them to therapists who engage in these practices, the truth is that attempting to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not improve their health, but instead puts them at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide. New Jersey has wisely decided to end these harmful practices, just as it prohibits other medical treatments that are dangerous and ineffective.”

TRENTON, N.J. (July 31, 2014)—Today, Judge Freda Wolfson of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a lawsuit that challenged a 2013 New Jersey law prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of a patient under 18 years old. The judge also granted a request by Garden State Equality, the state’s largest civil rights organization and the leading organization supporting passage of the law, to intervene in the case in defense of the law.

Today’s decision follows Judge Wolfson’s November 2013 decision dismissing a similar challenge to the law filed on behalf of therapists who wish to engage in these dangerous and long-discredited practices. That earlier decision is now on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which heard argument in the case on July 9.

In today’s ruling, Judge Wolfson concluded that “the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful or ineffective.” Garden State Equality is represented in the case by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and GluckWalrath LLP.

In 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision upholding a similar law in California protecting youth from these harmful practices. On June 30, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to further review that case. Similar legislation prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change minors’ sexual orientation or gender identity also has been proposed in several other states.

Statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.:

“We are very pleased that Judge Wolfson has again upheld this life-saving law. This law protects New Jersey’s youth from dangerous and discredited practices that have been rejected by the country’s leading medical and mental health organizations. Although well-meaning parents often think they are helping their children by sending them to therapists who engage in these practices, the truth is that attempting to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not improve their health, but instead puts them at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide. New Jersey has wisely decided to end these harmful practices, just as it prohibits other medical treatments that are dangerous and ineffective.”


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR Launches National Campaign to Protect LGBT Kids from Dangers of Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (June 24, 2014)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is launching #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, a national effort aimed at protecting LGBT kids from the harms caused by attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, including alienation from their families, severe depression, and suicide attempts.

Few practices hurt LGBT children more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts.” Yet some unethical counselors and therapists continue to subject young LGBT people to these practices—which often include the use of shame and verbal abuse—even though they have been condemned by every major medical and mental health organization in the country.

NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT kids from these practices for more than 20 years, successfully working to help draft and pass California’s Senate Bill 1172 in 2012, the nation’s first to protect LGBT children from the dangers of conversion therapy. The following year, NCLR helped New Jersey pass a similar law and is now working with legislators and LGBT leaders in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to LGBT kids across the country.

“The time is long overdue to stop the severe harms being inflicted on young LGBT children and their families by these dangerous practices,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “These practices have been thoroughly discredited by every major mental health organization, and yet, every day, unethical therapists continue to abuse their professional authority to deceive parents and wreck the lives of youth who deserve nothing but support.” Through #BornPerfect, NCLR:

  • Provides state legislators and LGBT leaders with comprehensive resources and a solid foundation to build statewide campaigns;
  • Works closely with state legislators and LGBT leaders throughout the legislative process, including drafting legislation, coordinating hearings with key witnesses, and gaining support to pass legislation;
  • Raises awareness about these dangerous practices and the lasting harm they cause in the lives of LGBT children by empowering survivors and providing them with the support to speak out about their experiences;
  • Fights in court for the safety and well-being of LGBT kids.

Ryan Kendall was a teenager when he went through conversion therapy—an experience that altered his life, resulting in him running away from his family’s Colorado home and legally separating himself from his parents so he would no longer have to endure hurtful and traumatic visits with his therapist. The ordeal would cost Kendall his family and more than a decade of his life in which he sank into depression and substance abuse.

“By 16, I had lost everything,” said Kendall, now 31, and a recent graduate of Columbia University with plans on attending law school. “My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide. I am lucky that I survived, but I will never be able to recover the years I lost to feeling worthless and suicidal because a therapist convinced my family that being gay is a mental illness and that who I am is shameful and wrong. These practices are child abuse, pure and simple.”

“No LGBTQ kid should ever have to endure what I did,” said Deb Cuny, 34, who went through the practice as a teenager and spent years being prayed over and even exorcised in an attempt to keep her family intact and fulfill her dream of becoming a minister. “No child should ever be told that they are broken, pressured into being cleansed of evil that doesn’t exist, or forced to choose between being honest about who they are and being loved. I absolutely believe the #BornPerfect campaign is going to save lives and put a long overdue end to conversion therapy.”


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Federal Appeals Court Lets Stand California Law Protecting Youth from Dangerous Anti-Gay ‘Conversion’ Therapies

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (January 29, 2014)—Today, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit let stand an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same court upholding Senate Bill 1172, a California statute enacted in 2012 that protects minors from dangerous and ineffective mental health treatments that falsely claim to be able to change a young person’s sexual orientation.

The California Legislature enacted the law to prevent state-licensed mental health professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of minor patients. The Legislature based the law on the unanimous consensus of the nation’s leading medical and mental health associations that such purported treatments have no scientific basis and put children at risk of serious harms, including depression and suicide.

In the lawsuit that the Ninth Circuit ruled in today, the statute was challenged by therapists who wish to engage in these practices on minor patients and who argued that the law violated their right to freedom of speech.  In August 2013, a panel of the Ninth Circuit held that California’s law was a permissible regulation of medical treatment to protect public health and safety and did not violate the free speech rights of therapists. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling today allows that decision to stand, thereby ensuring that California’s law will remain in effect.

California’s law was defended in the case by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and by Equality California, the lead sponsor of the legislation and California’s largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Equality California was represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Munger, Tolles, & Olson LLP.

Three of the Ninth Circuit’s 27 active judges dissented from today’s ruling, based on disagreement with the original panel’s reasoning. The dissenting judges took no position on whether the statute is valid, stating: “The regulation at issue may very well constitute a valid exercise of California’s police power[.]”

New Jersey enacted a similar law in 2013. A federal district court upheld New Jersey’s law on November 8, 2013, and that law is currently the subject of an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In that litigation, NCLR represents Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBT rights organization.

Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.: “Today’s decision affirms that California can protect young people and their families from being deceived and harmed by unethical therapists who falsely claim they can change a person’s sexual orientation. These practices have no scientific basis and can cause serious, lasting harms that devastate families and destroy young lives. California has a duty to protect the public from deceptive and unsafe practices by medical professionals who are licensed by the state. The Legislature did the right thing by enacting this protective law, and the ruling today strongly confirms that other states should follow California’s example and adopt similar laws.

Added Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor: “Equality California is proud to have sponsored and defended this important law. We are grateful to Senator Ted Lieu for authoring it and to Governor Brown for signing it. We are also grateful for medical and mental health associations that supported the law and helped to educate the legislature about the serious dangers posed by scientifically baseless efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression. No ethical professional should put a young person’s life and well-being at risk by engaging in these ineffective and dangerous practices. Every young person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and to be valued for who they are.”


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.