The Liberty Counsel has filed its final brief in its challenge of California’s ban on ex-gay therapy (SB 1172) on behalf of NARTH. In it, the group reiterates its claims that encouraging young people to change their sexual orientation is simply a “viewpoint,” and thus protected by the First Amendment. Despite the dearth of evidence supporting its effectiveness and the research that shows not only that it’s ineffective but that it can also be harmful, the conservatives stand by their claim that same-sex attractions (SSA) can be changed:
The APA Report admits SSA is “fluid,” which, no matter the debate over “enduring” change, it is clear that SSA can change. Studies reveal that sexual orientation is “not static.” “Contrary to the theoretical notion that one becomes fixated in childhood, the sexual orientation of the individuals in this study often changed remarkably.”
SB 1172 prohibits any counsel under any circumstance to change SSA. If SSA is fluid, then it is changeable. Given that SSA is capable of change, then why does the law prohibit change therapy? If an unhappy homosexual client engages the counselor because he wants to be bisexual, does the counselor violate SB 1172 by providing counsel that helps the client develop sexual attraction for both sexes? Or does the counselor violate the law only when the counsel offered seeks to change the client to be exclusively heterosexual?
SB 1172 prohibits any counsel to change SSA. What are Appellant-Counselors to do when clients return after hearing their opinion that SSA can change and asks the counselor to help them meet their self-determined objective to change their SSA? If the clients seek change, and if the Report admits SSA is fluid, and thus changeable, then why are counselors and clients prohibited from pursuing change? Where is the line drawn? What is permitted and what is not? The licenses of the Appellant-Counselors are on the line. They and thousands of other counselors and clients have no idea how to avoid these landmines.
NARTH and Liberty Counsel are twisting words beyond reproach in an attempt to make their case. There is a difference between the fact that sexual orientation naturally changes over time and the claim that it can be manipulated by therapy. Further, just because an individual has a “self-determined objective” to accomplish any bizarre outcome in therapy doesn’t mean it’s healthy or valid to work toward that objective. Indeed, the reason that professional psychological groups have established that affirming an individual’s sexual orientation is a best practice is because that is what has been determined to help patients regardless of what they’ve been taught to believe about homosexuality.
It’s important to keep in mind the mind-game at work. In the original complaint, these ex-gay therapists argued that the treatment was important for bringing families together. In other words, parents with a bias against homosexuality claim they can only love their child if he rejects his same-sex orientation, but the therapists then blame this situation on the patient — as they are wont to do. The young person is convinced to participate in the treatment to appease his family, implying an ultimatum that he can be gay or he can be loved, but he can’t be both. Thus, the “benefits” of ex-gay therapy are often a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in which young people claim to be happier because they’ve managed to placate their family’s homophobia. This artificial construct is self-serving, caters to parents’ demands instead of children’s well-being, and speaks nothing to the actual validity of ex-gay therapy.
Convincing young people to reject their identities is harmful on its face, and the animus behind defending the practice is not particularly well hidden in these arguments. These counselors can claim that they have an opinion about homosexuality, but they can’t claim to have any truth.