Legal and Ethical Concerns about Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

Hastings Cent Rep. 2014 Sep:44 Suppl 4:S32-9. doi: 10.1002/hast.368.


The United States has recently made significant and positive civil rights gains for LGB people, including expanded recognition of marriages between people of the same sex. Among the central tropes that have emerged in the struggle for the rights of LGB people are that they are "born that way," that sexual orientations cannot change, and that one's sexual orientation is not affected by choice. Writer Andrew Sullivan put it this way: "[H]omosexuality is an essentially involuntary condition that can neither be denied nor permanently repressed.… [S]o long as homosexual adults as citizens insist on the involuntary nature of their condition, it becomes politically impossible to deny or ignore the fact of homosexuality.… [The strategy for obtaining LGB rights is to] seek full public equality for those who, through no fault of their own, happen to be homosexual." This idea of linking LGB rights to empirical claims about sexual orientations has become so central that casting doubt on these claims is, in many circles, tantamount to opposing LGB rights. Nonetheless, claims about innateness, immutability, and lack of choice about sexual orientation should not be the primary basis for LGB rights.

MeSH terms

  • Bioethical Issues*
  • Bioethics
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Gender Dysphoria / drug therapy
  • Gender Dysphoria / surgery
  • Gender Dysphoria / therapy*
  • Human Rights / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Medicalization / ethics*
  • Morals
  • Politics
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • United States