The anti-gay agency that was recently in the headlines because of a board member’s overseas liaison with a gay prostitute will be holding its annual conference in Philadelphia this fall.
The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality is set to host its 2010 convention — themed “Preserving Personal Freedom: The Scientific & Ethical Treatment of Unwanted Homosexuality” — at the Philadelphia Renaissance Hotel Nov. 5-7.
NARTH, which advocates for conversation therapy to eradicate homosexual tendencies, came under public scrutiny this spring after board member George Alan Rekers was discovered to have hired a gay sex worker to accompany him on a trip to Europe. Rekers, who contends the man was only hired to carry his luggage, has since resigned from the board of NARTH.
According to a NARTH spokesperson, between 100-200 people are expected to attend the conference, which has never been held in Philadelphia before.
The hotel, located at 500 Stevens Drive near the Philadelphia International Airport, is owned by Marriott International.
A spokesperson for Marriott said in a statement that the company provides conference space for diverse groups and organizations.
“We are a hospitality company providing public accommodations. In no way do we support or endorse any group or individual by virtue of accepting their business. We embrace all people as our customers, associates, owners and franchisees, regardless of race/ethnicity, religion, culture, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.”
A message on Marriott’s LGBT travel site from company CEO Bill Marriott Jr. asserts that the chain’s “greatest strength lies in the rich diversity of culture, talent and experiences of our guests and associates around the world. Our differences make us strong, our culture more vibrant, our business model more flexible, our work more meaningful,” and the site goes on to name the Human Rights Campaign, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and other LGBT agencies as the company’s partners.
Marriott is a member of the Mormon church and two years ago some LGBT activists called for a boycott of the hotel chain following the passage of California’s Proposition 8 — which overturned the state’s same-sex marriage law — and which was supported in large part by the Mormon church. Marriott said neither he, nor his hotel, contributed to the Prop. 8 campaign.
Marriott has received a 100 rating on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, which examines LGBT employment policies and outreach to the LGBT community. Companies can lose points for engaging in “action that would undermine LGBT equality.”
Many leading medical agencies have denounced the concept of conversion therapy, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association.
In 2007, the APA convened a taskforce to study the issue and its final report last year concluded that conversion therapy is unlikely to be successful and could have damaging consequences.
“What people have reported is that efforts to change have exacerbated their shame and self-hatred and prolonged their efforts to come to some successful adaptation,” said Clinton Anderson, associate executive director of the APA’s LGBT Concerns Office. “There is often an attitude that change is possible when, in fact, for many people it probably really isn’t, so it sort of sets up this self-defeating expectation that affects people’s self-esteem and sense of selves because they’re thinking they should be able to make this change when it’s not successful.”
The APA last year approved a resolution affirming that same-sex attractions and relationships are “normal and positive variations of human sexuality” and do not reflect a mental disorder and that there was insufficient evidence to support psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.
In a rebuttal to the APA report, NARTH wrote that the study constituted a “poor use of science” and was “based on a postmodern belief in multiculturalism, in which traditional science is looked at with skepticism and ‘truth’ is in the eye of the beholder.”