California's new law banning any counseling that discourages acting on same-sex attractions is now facing an intense legal fight in federal court.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the ban last week, saying the idea of counseling people away from their homosexual inclinations ought to be relegated to the "dust bin of quackery."
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver is gearing up for the impending legal battle. He said a Democratic state lawmaker proposed the bill after watching an MTV program that featured counseling of a person not to pursue their hormonal urges toward the same gender. Staver asserted that the premise of the new law is unprecedented in its assault on liberty.
"This particular bill essentially says that no counseling at all to reduce or eliminate or even not to act on your same-sex attractions is not permissible effective January 1," Staver said. "The only kind of counseling that can be done is counseling that affirms or says it's OK to act on or continue to participate in your same-sex attractions. It's the first time in history that the government has come to counselors and said, 'You can counsel on this subject matter but you can only express this viewpoint.'"
Staver noted that the law not only ties the hands of counselors but also patients who sincerely want this type of therapy and to be rid of unwanted homosexual attractions. He used one of his clients in this case as an example of why he believes the state is way off base.
Staver said this young client "has had unwanted same-sex attractions, has had anxiety, self-esteem issue and identity issues and relationships with the family but now has gone into counseling" with noticeable results.
"The family relationship is well on the way to being repaired," said Staver. "The anxiety level has ultimately been addressed, and this person is appreciative of this counseling and wants to resolve his value system so that he does not act on same-sex attractions that he has experienced. That is his right as a client. That is the right of a counselor to provide that type of counseling or refer to counseling that would help him. Under this new law, neither the clients nor the counselors can provide or receive that kind of counseling."
Without a court injunction against the law, Staver said counselors will face a Catch-22.
"If this law were to go into effect, the counselors the counselors that we represent and many, many others will face disciplinary matters no matter what," said Staver. "If they counsel someone that they're currently counseling, or someone who seeks counseling, they'll violate the law that goes into effect. If they don't counsel them, they don't refer them, they don't provide them alternative information, guess what? They violate the ethical codes."
Staver firmly believes this is the latest alarming step along a very slippery cultural slope.
"It's absolute political correctness and immoral behavior and immoral and just bankrupt thinking that has led to this," he said. "They are legislating a specific kind of morality, and that morality is only that homosexuality is good and that same-sex attractions are nothing to ultimately be resisted. Even if you don't want them, even if you don't want to act on them, so what? Too bad. You've got to be counseled to act on them anyway.
"That's just absurd. If anything is quackery, it's the quackery of the California Legislature and the governor that ultimately has the audacity and the hubris to think that they can interfere between a client and the counselor's relationship."
Staver said he expects the injunction hearing to take place sometime in November because there must be a decision before the law takes effect in January. The legal action challenges an impending state law, but Liberty Counsel is mounting this challenge in federal court.
"It raises federal constitutional issues with regard to the right to the freedom of speech," he explained. "We also mention the California state Constitution, which gives, frankly, a broader protection of free speech rights than even does the federal one."