In 2012, California was the first state to ban “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), passing a law to prevent licensed therapists from assisting minors struggling with unwanted homosexuality and gender confusion. New Jersey followed in 2013. Since then, 15 states, Washington D.C. and a number of municipalities have passed similar counseling bans.
New York was the most recent state to pass a therapy ban, with Governor Cuomo signing the ban on January 25, 2019. Such legislation requires counselors to help clients in one direction only, moving toward homosexuality or transgenderism.
One broad ray of hope in all this is that a recent Supreme Court decision mentioned two lawsuits brought by counselors opposing therapy bans. As the Court declared unconstitutional a California statute that abrogated the free speech of Pregnancy Resource Centers, it also pointed to SOCE bans as another unconstitutional restriction of speech by states.
Despite this, numerous states are moving forward with legislation banning SOCE. Here are more reasons to oppose these bans on therapy, along with an explanation of two new threats that different versions of this legislation create for parents, churches and religious organizations. Finally, we’ll give a quick roundup of what’s happening with this legislation in different states, along with links were you can find state groups fighting this legislative overreach.
Why We Oppose Therapy Bans
Therapy bans take away a clients’ right to determine the direction and goals in their conversations with a counselor. There’s really no specific therapeutic practice or technique called “conversion therapy.” Those who support such bans are really opposed to a client’s goal in therapy: Some Christians want to see a licensed therapist to manage unwanted homosexuality or gender confusion and to live according to the biblical sexual ethic.
Therapy bans take away religious freedom. Some people with same-sex attractions or gender confusion have strong Christian beliefs. They believe that God created us male and female in His image. They don’t believe that there are a multitude of genders, or that people can change from one sex to the other. They believe, as Jesus and Scripture teach, that God designed sexual activity to take place only within marriage, between a husband and wife.
We want these individuals, who find their faith in conflict with their sexual thoughts and feelings, to have access to trained, professional Christian counselors. These counselors provide support as conflicted clients explore their sexuality and faith.
Therapy bans for minors take away parental rights. Parents with children who are confused about their identity – being male or female – should have the right to find qualified professional counselors who will work with the family and the child. Such counseling would help these confused children accept, embrace and celebrate their bodily physical reality. Therapy bans force these families and children to move toward gender confusion and take away other options.
New Threats from Therapy Bans
Most therapy bans are modeled after the California legislation enacted in 2012. More recently, bills have been introduced in several states that also label help for unwanted homosexuality and gender confusion “consumer fraud” or “child abuse.”
In 2018, the California Family Council, a Focus-affiliated organization, worked with other Christian groups to fight off a bill that would have used that state’s consumer fraud statute as a means to penalize free speech on the issues of homosexuality and gender identity. AB 2943 would have affected those who proclaim a biblical view of homosexuality and gender identity, any time there was a monetary exchange. So Christian counselors, bookstores, schools, conferences and bookstores would have been liable to lawsuits for “consumer fraud.”
That law was withdrawn by the sponsor, Evan Low, who has said he will introduce a similar bill in 2019. Now, other states are trying the same tactic. In Minnesota, HF 12 and SF 83 would ban counseling help for minors with unwanted homosexuality or gender confusion, and it would add such help to the state’s consumer fraud laws. The Minnesota Family Council is opposes this assault on freedom of speech and religion.
Colorado legislators have introduced HB19-1129 to ban “conversion therapy.” The bill also labels advertising or practice of conversion therapy “a deceptive trade practice.” Colorado Family Action works to defeat such legislation that attacks Christian theology and values.
In Nebraska, bisexual-identified legislator Megan Hunt has introduced a bill, LB 167, to ban “conversion therapy” for minors and advertising such therapy. She’s introduced a second bill that would label such therapy “child abuse,” LB 168. Parents who work with a child and a counselor to resolve sexual orientation or gender identity issues could be subject to felony charges.
The Nebraska Family Alliance is opposes these egregious bills that threaten parental rights and religious freedom. As they explain, the bills would “criminalize the Biblical teaching of marriage and human sexuality as fraud and child abuse.” A similar bill was defeated in Massachusetts last year, but may be reintroduced for 2019.
States Considering Therapy Bans
In addition to these, a number of other states are considering such bans in 2019. Focus on the Family affiliated state Family Policy Councils are working to defeat these measures, so we’ve provided links to their websites and resources if you’d like to engage in fighting these bans in your state.
- Arizona’s SB 1047 would label help for unwanted homosexuality and transgenderism “unprofessional conduct.” The Center for Arizona Policy has information about the legislation.
- In Florida, SB 84 and HB 109 have been referred to committees. The Florida Family Policy Council works to fight such legislation and protect free speech and religious freedom.
- The Indiana Family Institute is opposing SB 284 and HB 1231, bills that ban counseling for minors with same-sex attractions or gender confusion who want to live according to their faith.
- In Missouri, HB 516 was introduced in January; the Missouri Family Policy Council combats such bills that restrict parental rights and religious freedom.
- The Pennsylvania Family Institute works to oppose a therapy ban, SB 56, and to promote family-friendly legislation.
- In Texas, the group Texas Values will strive to defeat HB 517, a ban on counseling for minors with unwanted homosexuality.
There are many more reasons to oppose these therapy bans, which you can find in articles and position statements, such as “Focus on the Family’s Position: Counseling for Unwanted Homosexuality”; “The Right to Counseling for Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions”; and “Counseling for Sexual Identity Concerns: A measured, careful, and compassionate approach.”