WASHINGTON - Ex-gay activists warned D.C. lawmakers against supporting a ban on a therapy that supporters say can help children who want to be free of same-sex attractions.
But at a congressional hearing Friday, opponents called it "torture therapy," claiming it traumatizes and abuses children. One such opponent told the council, "This type of conversion therapy - it's a psychological abuse essentially."
The ban's backers testified government should protect children from such therapy.
But ex-gay Christopher Doyle, of the International Healing Foundation, said such therapy has ever been used to abuse any child in D.C.
"It has been established in today's committee hearing that there has never been an ethical complaint or grievance filed from anyone being coerced or forced to go and get this therapy against their will," Doyle told reporters after Friday's hearing outside D.C. City Hall.
"This bill says that children, teenagers under age 18, are being forced to change their sexual orientation. That's absolutely false, not true," Doyle said.
Meanwhile, the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg refuted charges that conversion therapy is ineffective.
"We heard claims that Sexual Orientation Change Efforts are ineffective and yet we heard testimonies, multiple testimonies from people that, in fact, change is possible," Sprigg told reporters.
But instead of having their testimony accepted at Friday's hearing, ex-gay Greg Quinlan said he and others encountered scoffing disbelief and hatred.
"In my 20 years being out of the homosexual lifestyle, I've suffered a lot of hate, a lot of venom, and I've even been physically assaulted," said Quinlan, former president of the group Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX). "But today was a prime example of the bigotry and the hate that every ex-gay suffers."
Those at the news conference said they were verbally attacked and berated by gay councilmember David Catania.
Quinlan characterized Catania's comments at the hearing as a rant "about how anyone who disagrees with this bill about banning the therapy that children need, that parents should have a right to be a part of, were mentally ill. He said we were mentally ill, homophobic and hate-filled."
"We heard powerful testimony from many ex-gays today who have successfully changed their sexual orientation," Doyle added.
"But unfortunately it was clear - especially through one gay-identified councilmember - that they weren't interested in hearing our stories. They were interested in shoving a political agenda down our throats," he charged.
These ex-gays and their supporters said the way those who oppose conversion and similar therapies choose to deal with the therapies' success stories is to deny them, and even suggest ex-gays don't really exist.
Despite the testimony of ex-gays' at Friday's hearing, councilmember Yvette Alexander said she can't believe there are former homosexuals.
But Doyle said he himself is the product of successful therapy: "I have absolutely no homosexual feelings and I have a beautiful wife and three wonderful children," he said.
For some people, Doyle told CBN News, "homosexual feelings dissipate, they decrease, they go away."
If the proposed therapy ban passes in D.C., ex-gay Charles Peters warned it will cut children off from the kind of therapy he believes saved his sanity and life after he was sexually abused by a Scoutmaster.
"The blood of children who kill themselves because of unwanted same-sex attraction issues will be on the hands of this council if they vote to approve this bill," Peters said, adding, "sexual orientation change therapy has saved my life."
Doyle said of the proposed ban, "This is being propagated by gay activists who have a political agenda, who say that we must have one opinion on counseling in the District of Columbia, that if you are gay, you must accept it. If you have unwanted same-sex attractions, you must accept it. You have no choice."