Christopher Doyle, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, is fighting back against a Maryland law banning “conversion therapy” for minors with unwanted homosexual or transgender issues. Maryland passed SB 1028 in 2018, and Doyle filed his complaint in January with the aid of Liberty Counsel. Earlier this week the District Court of Maryland heard arguments asking for a preliminary injunction against the state law.

California was the first state to ban therapy for minors struggling with gender confusion or homosexuality in 2012. While most states have rejected such laws, 18 states and more than 50 local jurisdictions now ban licensed counselors from offering therapeutic help for minors – unless the therapy steers them toward homosexuality and transgenderism. Some of the local ordinances even ban counseling for adults wrestling with homosexuality or gender confusion.

LGBT activists and their allies label such help from licensed counselors “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) or “conversion therapy.” The truth, however, is that there is no specific technique or method called “conversion therapy.” Counselors don’t promise to “convert” someone from “gay to straight.” They don’t offer a cure or a complete change in “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” either. Instead, therapists work with clients who feel conflicted about their sexual thoughts, behaviors, attractions and identity. They help clients clarify and pursue their own goals and objectives.

Some of these individuals simply believe what Jesus clearly taught: God designed us male and female, in His image, and God created marriage to be the union of a husband and wife (Matthew 19:4-6). They want help understanding themselves and want to live according to this biblical standard.

Doyle’s suit alleges that SB 1028 violates his “federal and state constitutional guarantees of Freedom of Speech and Free Exercise of Religion, and the corresponding rights of his minor clients.” The complaint states that clients have a fundamental right to self-determination and that licensed mental health professionals work with clients toward their own goals and objectives.

It also contends that the ban infringes on parents’ rights, including “the right to meet each child’s individual counseling, developmental, emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual needs.” Under these therapy bans, for example, parents with a confused 4-year old boy, who wants to be a girl, could not seek professional assistance to guide their son toward embracing his God-given, biological maleness.

Instead, therapists would insist that the parents help the child present himself as a girl, then place him on a trajectory toward the use of physically damaging puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and multiple surgeries. Such treatments are largely irreversible and have serious physical consequences – including severe health issues and permanent sterilization. In addition, this course of treatment wouldn’t help the boy deal with the underlying emotional, psychological and relational issues that may have influenced him to reject his body and desire to live as the opposite sex.

States and local jurisdictions that pass these bans typically use the same legislative template, with the same justifications and the same language. Doyle’s suit explains that the justifications do not consist of strong evidence that “counseling to eliminate, reduce or resolve unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity” is really harmful. Instead, the laws simply list a series of ideologically-driven position papers from different medical and counseling groups. These groups, such as the American Psychiatric Association or the American Psychological Association (APA) often operate from a secular world view opposed to Christianity. They also have strong LGBT activist divisions that control statements from the main organization related to these subjects.  

The complaint explains that the primary source of evidence these position papers – and legislation such as SB 1028 – point to is the “2009 Report of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.” Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit then explains numerous flaws in the APA Report:

  • The task force was biased from the outset: “[T]he only views of homosexuality that were tolerated were those that uniformly endorsed same-sex behavior as a moral good.”
  • The task force was made up entirely of LGBT-identified members and activists, excluding any researchers and clinicians with differing views, “Although many qualified conservative psychologists were nominated to serve on the task force, all of them were rejected.”
  • The APA Report used unfair, unbalanced research criteria, applying very strict standards to any studies of change from homosexuality, but used “considerably less rigorous and uneven standards applied to the question of harm.”
  • The APA report was biased against people of faith, “failing to recommend any religious resources that adopt a traditional or conservative approach to addressing conflicts between religious beliefs and sexual orientation.”

The position papers also misrepresent the APA report’s final conclusions. They typically state that therapy for homosexuality or transgenderism doesn’t work and is damaging. The same assertions have been repeated countless times by activist groups and the media. But despite the clear bias of the task force members, that’s not what the APA report concluded, and Doyle’s case points this out, quoting what this often misrepresented report actually says:

  • “Sexual orientation issues in children are virtually unexamined.”
  • “There is a lack of published research on SOCE [counseling to eliminate, reduce or resolve unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity] among children.”
  • “We found no empirical research on adolescents who request such counseling.”
  • “[T]here is a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE. Early and recent research studies provide no clear indication of the prevalence of harmful outcomes.”
  • “For some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome.”
  • “Some individuals report that they went on to lead outwardly heterosexual lives, developing a sexual relationship with an other-sex partner, and adopting a heterosexual identity.”

The APA report – along with the ideologically-driven position statements that point to it – has become the keystone for laws forbidding therapists to provide help for individuals struggling with homosexual and transgender thoughts, feelings, behaviors and identities. Given the overt agenda of the APA task force and the flawed nature of its report, it’s time to reject it and the unconstitutional laws it has helped foster. Let’s pray that Doyle prevails in his ongoing struggle for freedom for himself, other therapists and clients.