Washington Times Op-Ed Distorts California’s “Ex-Gay” Therapy Ban
December 18, 2012 1:50 pm ET by Carlos Maza
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) president Brad Dacus criticized the California state legislature for its passage of SB 1172 - a law banning “ex-gay” therapy for minors – in an op-ed for The Washington Times, inaccurately depicting the measure as an unjust violation of the First Amendment.
In his December 17 op-ed, Dacus – whose group is notorious for lobbying against any effort to protect LGBT youth – argues that California’s “ex-gay” therapy ban will harm young patients by denying them “critical” counseling as they struggle with “feelings of same-sex attraction”:
Under SB 1172, if a 14-year-old is fearful or depressed because of some feelings of same-sex attraction, he could not request any counseling that would help him understand and minimize those feelings… In fact, all licensed counselors or psychiatrists are explicitly censored from providing reparative counseling, despite a professional assessment that such counseling is critical to their patient.
How did this draconian censorship of the mental health professions become law? Activists for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights pushed for this one-size-fits-all approach to counseling premised on the idea that all same-sex attraction is 100 percent genetic.
Never mind that even an American Psychological Association report on homosexuality (2009) acknowledges that sexual orientation is not determined solely by biology or genetics but also by psychological and cultural factors.
Dacus’s citing of the American Psychological Association (APA) is interesting, seeing as how that organization – along with nearly every major professional medical organization in the United States – has deemed the practice both ineffective and potentially harmful.
Former members of the “ex-gay” movement have testified that the therapy is damaging and fails to produce positive results. There are also stories of young patients who undergo “ex-gay” therapy only to face depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts as a result.
Even a current leader within the “ex-gay” movement has admitted that the overwhelming majority of those who had undergone the therapy had not changed their sexual orientation.
Dacus goes on to make a point that has unfortunately gained some traction in the mainstream media: that banning “ex-gay” therapy for minors infringes on therapists’ freedom of speech and freedom of religion:
Legislatures certainly have the legal prerogative to enact standards intended to protect patients from harm. Such prerogatives do not amount to a license to engage in legislative negligence resulting from apparent ignorance. Nor can they pass any law inhibiting fundamental rights, such as free speech, the free exercise of religion, privacy and association of anyone (including licensed counselors), absent evidence to support a compelling state interest to do so.
According to Dacus, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the government to regulate the practice of psychotherapy, which inevitably involves “speech.” Therapists should not have a right to practice bad medicine simply because that practice aligns with their sincerely held personal views. As Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), wrote in a statement to Equality Matters:
If health care professionals have a First Amendment right to express any opinion when they are treating their patients, then even medical doctors can’t be prohibited from disregarding medical science and telling patients to do things that are harmful or even deadly. For example, under current law, a doctor can’t tell you that it would be good for your health to smoke a couple of packs of cigarettes a day. But if Judge Shubb’s analysis were right, a doctor could not be disciplined by a medical board or sued for malpractice for voicing his or her “opinion.”