Following through on its promise to challenge California’s new ban on ex-gay therapy for minors, the Pacific Justice Institute has filed suit on behalf of a self-proclaimed “ex-gay” therapist-in-training, Aaron Bitzer, and two other therapists, Donald Welch and Anthony Duk, who provide reparative therapy. The suit is rife with spurious claims and meritless demands that essentially equate to whining about the law’s limitations, none of which comes close to meeting a Constitutional challenge. Here is a sampling from the complaint, aptly filed under “Plaintiffs’ Beliefs”:
Forced to discriminate?
If a minor’s objectives are to bring his or her sexual conduct and desires into conformity with the religious traditions, cultural norms, and moral standards of the minor, Dr. Duk can provide treatment so long as the minor is heterosexual. However, under the statute in question, a minor who has unwanted same sex behaviors or attractions cannot be treated with either counseling or prescription medications. […] Dr. Duk is therefore required to discriminate against minor patients for no other reason than their sexual orientation.
The complaint refers to such conduct as “sexual behaviors, desires, and addictions such as pornography.” Under the law, there’s no reason that gay youth could not pursue therapy for the very same things so long as it’s not in the context of denying, repressing, or attempting to change their sexual orientation. These therapists are basically admitting that they would intentionally discriminate against any gay kid who still wanted affirmation for his or her orientation.
Violation of professional ethics?
The statute materially interferes with the plaintiff mental health professionals’ exercise of their independent professional judgment in providing treatment to minors who have unwanted same sex behaviors or attractions… This is in violation of these plaintiff mental health professionals’ obligations under the rules of professional ethics to provide treatment to persons regardless of their sexual orientation.
Providing ex-gay therapy is already a violation of their professional ethics, as all major professional psychotherapy organizations have condemned the practice as ineffective and harmful. That they seek to provide it nevertheless demonstrates that their “independent professional judgment” is severely compromised.
Violation of privacy?
The self-proclaimed compelling interest in the statute is woefully inadequate both on its face and in fact to justify the statute’s egregious violation of privacy. SB 1172 also provides no exception when a mental health provider exercises his or her professional judgment that the prohibited therapy is necessary to protect the life and health of the client or patient.
The suit does not identify any actual example of how the law could violate therapist-patient privilege or privacy of any kind. Given that the only effect of ex-gay therapy is reinforcing internalized stigma, there is no conceivable expectation it would ever be life-saving — quite the opposite.
Violation of free speech?
The prohibitions of SB 1172 unlawfully create a new category of banned speech, namely “sexual orientation change efforts” directed at minors. This includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth. The state does not have any governmental interest sufficient to justify SB 1172’s sweeping prohibition of speech.
The law does not prevent anybody from practicing anti-gay speech; it simply prevents licensed professionals from false advertising — selling a medical treatment that has no scientific merit. Ex-gay therapy is comparable to blood-letting in terms of its medical efficacy.
No such thing as sexual orientation change efforts?
However, while the Plaintiffs generally agree that they practice reparative therapy in at least some senses of the words, they do not concede that they are “seeking” to “change” anyone’s sexual orientation. Rather, plaintiffs believe that change must be initiated and sought by the patient, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning, in order to be successful, and they merely assist patients who are already seeking their own change. As a result of these differences in terminology, Plaintiffs cannot be reasonably certain whether their beliefs and practices are forbidden by the statute.
This argument is the equivalent of playing stupid, an acquiescence of all professional judgment to the uninformed whims of a patient’s internalized stigma. If patients say they want to change or curb their sexual orientation and the therapists endorse this effort, they are culpable. The proper response to patients’ conflicted feelings about their sexual orientation is to help them accept that aspect of their identity through affirmation.
Violation of religious freedom?
In that the statute contains no religious exceptions, it would directly curtail the religious expression of members of the clergy who are also mental health professionals. The statute would also proscribe the religious speech of licensed educational and school psychologists in parochial and other private religious schools.
There is no “sanctuary” for harmful, unprofessional treatment. Licensed professionals should be held to the same standard in all settings.
Violation of parents’ rights?
SB 1172 even casts a pall over parents of children with sexual identity confusion, same-sex attraction, and gender non-conformity by declaring that “family rejection” poses critical health risks to those children, and that the state has a compelling interest in protecting those children from their parents’ disapproval. […]
SB 1172 infringes parents’ fundamental liberty interests in two ways. First, it deprives parents of the authority to seek reparative therapy, including spiritual counsel from their religious leaders, for their children’s sexual confusion. Second, SB 1172 threatens parents with state intrusion and interference if the parents’ child raising practices and inculcation of values are deemed by the state to constitute “family rejection” of a child’s sexual orientation.
Though the suit claims that the law does not define “family rejection,” ample research has demonstrated its deleterious effect. Exorbitantly high rates of LGBT youth homelessness are due to family rejection, as are heightened rates of suicide and illegal drug use, whereas family acceptance mitigates those risks. The law is specifically designed to protect minors from parents who would force their beliefs upon a nonconsenting child in the form of harmful junk therapy.
Despite the numerous “beliefs” claimed in the suit, none actually reflects the reality that sexual orientation is innate, cannot be changed, and is best served with therapeutic affirmation. Clearly, these plaintiffs care more about imposing their anti-gay stigma upon society, particularly susceptible youths, then actually helping protect the mental health of anybody.