Two Rulings on Law Banning Gay Conversion Therapy for Teens

The Story: Two federal judges in Sacramento have come to opposite conclusions on the constitutionality of a new California law that bars the use of “gay conversion therapy” on minors, reports The Sacramento Bee.

The Background: On Monday, a U.S. District judge ruled that the reparative therapy ban “lacks content and viewpoint neutrality” in violation of the First Amendment. But on Tuesday, a different U.S. District judge ruled that the law prohibiting licensed mental health providers from steering patients under 18 away from gay and lesbian lifestyles does not infringe on the suing providers’ constitutional guarantee of free speech.

Senate Bill 1172, which was signed into law by Calif. Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 29, will make it illegal for mental health providers to use sexual orientation change efforts on patients under the age of 18. According to the law, these types of efforts “shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject a mental health provider to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.”

Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom advocacy organization, will file an emergency appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to block the law before it goes into effect on January 1, 2013.

Why It Matters: “The minors we represent have not and do not want to act on their same-sex attractions. They are greatly benefiting from counseling,” says Matt Staver of the Liberty Counsel. “On January 1, the state of California will essentially barge into the room of each counseling session to tell the counselor what they may present, and clients what they may receive, only one viewpoint on same-sex attraction. This is outrageous and offensive.”

As I wrote in May, the larger issue is not about the value of reparative therapy—that should be determined on the basis of its clinical effectiveness—but about whether Christian counselors will soon be banned from helping clients overcome unwanted same-sex attraction. While the effectiveness of such treatments is debatable, there is clear evidence that homosexual orientation is sometimes mutable and that those struggling with same-sex desires can have healthy heterosexual relationships.

The clash between the uncontestable truths of the Gospel and the non-empirical biases of secular psychologists is both inevitable and destructive. In the end, the Gospel always wins. But in the meantime, the mental health professionals who “normalize” sinful behaviors are helping to harm the people they are paid to heal.

  • Mel

    What about a child that has been molested by someone of the same sex? Does that mean they are doomed to think that determines their identity?

  • Matthias

    I read an article recently on Yahoo! regarding gay conversion therapy. An organization called JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) had been accused of unethical treatments/practices reminiscent of One Flew, along with other things. Two young men who, frankly, had been violated (assuming the accusations are true) sued the organization for the further harm it caused. At the point they sued, they had been going to therapy because of trauma incurred from the treatments at JONAH.

    At any rate, the author of the article used that story as a segue into the dangers of “gay conversion therapy” in general. While I certainly had in mind the potential ramifications of a ruling such as this on churches and counsellors as you mention, the author seemed to want to put every type of “gay conversion therapy” into the same boat, reminding readers of the APA’s archaic classification of homosexuality as a mental disease, and intimating that treatments were all “harmful” to people like JONAH’s unethical practices were. No distinction was ever made. No consideration was made for people who didn’t want same-sex attraction. Most people don’t seem to be thinking in these terms.

    So, I suppose this is just something to keep in mind when talking to people who are for banning the therapy in toto.

  • Wesley

    I remember a few years ago (when i began working on my MA in counselling Psych through Liberty U) when the DSM was being updated and homosexuality was no longer listed as a mental disorder. From a Christian perspective, this had mixed feelings b/c sin, in and of itself, is not essentially a psychological disorder but a rebellion of a sinful heart. That being said, it seemed – even then – that the clear thrust of the move was to make such injunctions against reparative therapy possible and to push ever further the gay agenda at normalizing what the bible calls against God’s design.
    I pray that law is struck down and counsellors are allowed to do their jobs and patients are allowed to seek what therapy THEY want.

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  • Gordon

    Awesome! TGC posts a blog entry that includes my Alma mater.

    On the matter at hand though, the only danger that this law poses is that of further stamping out the legality of practising evangelical christianity and any other worldview that opposes homosexuality.

    We must prepare to face fines and jail time soon.

  • Sisterlisa

    I fully support the government’s decision in this. And while I understand it places a standard on Christian counselors who are certified by the state, we are called to obey the laws of the land. A young person has plenty of identity issues as it is, even those who aren’t gay. For a Christian, the main focus should be the identity we have in Christ regardless of what our flesh has to deal with.

  • Mel

    Lisa we cannot have an identity in Christ and chase a life of lust. Having the world tell someone that wrong is right and right is wrong does not help. Having representatives of Christ standing behind that just makes no sense at all.

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  • Thomas Aquinas

    Lisa, we are our flesh, unless you think that gnosticism is the appropriate grid by which to assess our anthropology. According to your reasoning, adultery, sex with dolls, and even masturbation to photos of one’s own children are permissible since “the main focus should be the identity we have in Christ regardless of what our flesh has to deal with.” Where did you learn these mistaken ideas?

    You have to ask yourself whether you believe them because you’ve actually thought about them or whether you believe them because to not believe them would mean to resist the trajectory of our culture, and doing that will marginalize you? I suspect it’s the latter. Christians, unfortunately, are susceptible to letting the culture lead them by the nose, since most of them put a premium on being “accepted” and not accused of “being unloving,” even when the accusation is false.

    Here’s another question: if sexual orientation is immutable, then why isn’t one’s gender? After all, one’s gender is genetic and manifested in physical characteristic that are more identifiable than race. And yet, with race, we would consider it strange, and a form of self-loathing, if someone underwent surgery to change from “black” to “white,” let’s say. If one cannot change one’s sexual orientation, surely one cannot change one’s gender. Sexual orientation is a disposition, albeit a strong one. But dispositions have been known to change. One’s gender, however, is not a disposition. It is your embodied self. To carve that up, and then ask everyone to agree, is perverse. Desiring that your dispositions correspond to the order of your sexual powers is healthy and normal. Essentially, California is saying that this desire is mistaken and should not be honored. How strange is that? Yet, the desire to employ one’s sexual powers in a way to which they are not ordered–to engage, for example, in sodomy or use of “toys,” etc–is protectable behavior that ought to be advocated in the public schools. If you don’t see this state of affairs as certifiably insane, then you have breached the wall of rationality and entered the abyss of nihilism.

    We are so going to hell.

  • Michael Salas

    It is important to remember that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is not a matter of who you are having sex with. Therefore, it is not simply a behavior or a set of behaviors, and it really doesn’t hurt anyone. As a Dallas Therapist, I work with individuals who would change this part of themselves if they could. But they can’t. Suppressing is not changing anything, but just creating trauma that doesn’t need to be created. There is nothing therapeutic in that.

    I remember a sign that a teacher of mine had when I was in school which said “feminism=the funny notion that women should have equal rights”. I would think that “gay agenda” could have the same said about it. Calling it an agenda is completely mislabeling this.