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Associated Press – January 20, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO – A gay man testified Wednesday in a federal same-sex marriage trial that the “reversal therapy” he underwent as a teenager to change his sexual orientation drove him to the brink of suicide.
Lawyers for two same-sex couples suing to overturn California’s gay marriage ban called 26-year-old Ryan Kendall to the witness stand to demonstrate that a person’s sexual orientation cannot usually be changed.
The point is central to their effort to show that gays deserve special protections from discrimination under the U.S. Constitution.
Kendall said the therapy he tried at the insistence of his parents did nothing to turn him into a heterosexual.
“I was just as gay as when I started,” he said.
James Campbell, a lawyer for the ban’s sponsors objected to Kendall being allowed to testify, saying it was irrelevant to the legal issues in the case.
Kendall said his parents discovered he was gay as they read his journal when he was 13. He was from a religious family and his mother and father “flipped out,” he said.
“I remember my mother looking at me and telling me I was going to burn in hell,” he testified.
His parents sent him to a private Christian therapist and then a more intensive program run by the National Association for Reparative Therapy of Homosexuality.
During his 18 months in the program, Kendall said he did not believe his sexual orientation could be changed and that hearing from his therapist and his parents that gays were bad people sank him into despair and to the brink of suicide.
“My mother would tell me she hated me,” he said. “Once she told me she wished she had had an abortion instead of a gay son.”
Campbell cross-examined Kendall gently, asking if he ever believed the therapy could help, since he had been forced to go by his parents.
“Your only goal for conversion therapy was to survive the experience, is that true?” Campbell asked.
“Very true,” Kendall answered.
Campbell asked if Kendall knew anyone who had entered reparative therapy voluntarily. Kendall said he did not.
“You have testified your particular family experience was just as damaging to you as the therapy itself, was it not,” Campbell asked.
“Yes, I have,” he said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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