In December of 2014, a 17-year old young man struggling with transgenderism and homosexuality walked in front of a semi-truck, ending his life. He left a suicide note blaming his parents, their Christian faith and the therapy he had been undergoing to change his gender identity and sexual orientation. Activists, internet bloggers and journalists quickly politicized the suicide, attacking the grieving parents, the boy’s therapy and Christianity — this despite the fact that suicide is a complicated and multi-factored issue, leaving devastation and heartbreak in its wake. It’s easy to point fingers and politicize a death, but almost impossible for outsiders to pinpoint all the factors involved in a young man taking his life.

Within days of this horrible event, an activist placed a petition on the White House’s “We the People” site, calling for a ban to so-called “conversion therapies,” saying that such efforts “have been documented to cause great harms.” In April, the petition reached more than 100,000 signatures, prompting the White House to issue a statement in response to the petition. In May, two California members of Congress made headlines; one calling for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission of therapists and ministries, who offer such counseling; and the second introducing a bill in the U. S. House to ban such therapeutic help.

These efforts by federal legislators follow a growing movement by activists to pass state legislation to prevent mental-health professionals from providing assistance to minors with unwanted same-sex attractions. California (2012) and New Jersey (2013) have both banned “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) for minors. California lawmakers first attempted to ban all SOCE; however, that met with resistance, so the legislation was modified to apply only to minors. More recently, Oregon, Illinois and Washington, D.C. passed similar laws. The good news is that in most states where similar legislation has been introduced it has been defeated.

Our Concerns About Banning Help for Unwanted Homosexuality

Focus on the Family does not and has never offered sexual-orientation change therapy, also referred to as “reparative therapy.” We have licensed counselors on staff who take one-time phone calls and refer to other therapists, upon request. We also support an individual’s right to counseling for unwanted homosexuality — and the rights of counselors to offer such help.

“Sexual Orientation Change Efforts” (SOCE) is a broad term that deals with any kind of help from a licensed mental-health professional for those with unwanted homosexuality. This is counseling, or talk therapy, to assist someone with unwanted homosexuality —whether it’s behavior, attractions or identity — to live according to their faith and values.

If this therapy is banned, think about the impact this would have on minors:

  • A teen boy who is hooked on gay pornography — and wants to stop — could not get help from a licensed professional counselor.
  • A young girl who was sexually abused, and was questioning her identity, could only get help to identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
  • A boy who wants to develop his sense of masculinity and identity could not get help to affirm his masculine identity from a state-licensed counselor.
  • A girl who’s involved in a same-sex relationship, but whose faith says that’s not best for her, could not get help to stop the relationship from a licensed counselor.

Such bans will not end with minors. Homosexual-identified activists and their allies have made it clear that they want to shut down licensed professional care for adults with unwanted homosexuality— except for “gay-affirming therapy.” In addition to legislative attempts to ban this help, individual counselors and religious-based groups are now facing lawsuits for offering help for unwanted homosexuality.

Government Intrusion

Legislation to ban SOCE is an intrusion by the government into the lives of those with unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors or identities. It also intrudes into the privacy of the counseling office, coming between clients and licensed counselors. Families are affected, too, since parents and their minor children should be able to work with a counselor on these issues.

We also speak out against these bans, because it affects freedom of speech and religion. People of faith should be able to talk to and work with a licensed counselor to pursue goals that align with their deeply held beliefs.

For these reasons and more, we oppose these laws.