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.