Gay therapy conferencePosted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- A divisive message emerging from a valley conference has prompted plans for a protest Saturday.
A group that promotes "therapy" to change a gay person's orientation has found itself at odds with lots of people.
NARTH is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. It's an organization that believes a person's sexual orientation can be changed with therapy and this weekend they are holding their national conference here in Phoenix.
"One of the myths that exists in our culture is that people are born homosexual," said NARTH President Julie Hamilton. "Another myth is that people cannot change their sexual orientation."
It's a belief that these Phoenicians find very offensive.
“They say you don't have to be gay, that's like telling me I don't have to be Caucasian,” said Gay activist Rev. Brad Whishon.
A group of men, leaders in the gay community, are worried about the message NARTH sends.
"It sends the message there is something wrong with being gay," said Licensed Counselor Barry Aneda.
NARTH President Julie Hamilton said nothing is wrong with being gay, but her organization can keep you from being gay.
"There are many people dissatisfied with their homosexual orientation who really want to seek change," Hamilton said.
NARTH offers therapies that promise to change a person's sexual orientation..
“For some people this is life-saving information for people who are unhappy and want help,” Hamilton said.
But others believe this information is what perpetuates hate and homophobia.
"The only reason why someone would not want to be gay is because they've heard it repeated it's not OK to be gay," said gay activist David Ragan.
Barry Aneda works with people struggling to accept their sexual orientation and he's worried about the message NARTH send those people.
"When that homophobic message is sent to our clients, they internalize that message and that fuels that self hate... they feel hopeless, helpless," Aneda said.
According to the American Psychiatric and the American Psychological Associations there is no scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed, but NARTH says their research tells a different story.
"We're getting information out there for those who want to seek change," Hamilton said. "For those who aren't seeking change... then certainly they should be living their lives how they want to live their lives."
The conference is being held at the Phoenix Airport Marriott and runs through the weekend. Protests are planned for Saturday.