State seeks talking points for therapists

By Bob Unruh

As expected, Maryland is seeking to become the third state to impose talking points on therapists whose clients are horrified by the same-sex attractions they may experience and want help to rid themselves.

State lawmakers have proposed, like in California and New Jersey, a ban on what therapists can say in such situations.

“This legislation makes unfounded claims that sexual orientation change effort (SOCE) therapy is harmful and ineffective, while ignoring the reality that some minors who develop homosexual feelings have already been harmed by sexual abuse and will be unable to pursue help to overcome sexual confusion that may result from that molestation,” said Christopher Doyle in a statement released by Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays.

“Children who have been molested and are confused about their sexual orientation as a result of the abuse will be denied access to therapy simply because it is not gay-affirming.”

Such censorship already has been adopted in California and New Jersey, and officials with Liberty Counsel are representing clients and counselors in those states who want the speech restriction struck down.

That dispute already has been elevated to the point the Supreme Court is being asked to review the restrictions and limits on the First Amendment.

Homosexual activists say they plan to make similar changes in New York, Virginia, Washington and Massachusetts, too.

Maryland’s plan, House Bill 91,“would prohibit a licensed mental health practitioner in the state of Maryland from offering counseling or psychotherapy to a minor that has unwanted same-sex attractions and seeks to change his/her homosexual orientation,” PFOX explained.

But it “relies exclusively on policy statements from so-called ‘mainstream’ mental and medical health organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA), who formed a Task Force in 2009 made up exclusively of gay-identified and gay-affirming psychologists,” PFOX reported.

“What the APA Task Force report actually said was that there is inadequate research to make conclusions on the efficacy and safety of SOCE therapy,” said Doyle, “Bill 91’s interpretation of the APA report’s conclusions is inaccurate, and we are calling on the APA to correct those inaccuracies, as it states in their own 2002 Code of Conduct: ‘When its research is misinterpreted or misquoted, it (APA) should take reasonable steps to correct the misinterpretation’.”

Doyle continued, “House Bill 91 threatens clients’ constitutional rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and their First Amendment rights to see a counselor who helps them resolve unwanted SSA while remaining faithful to their deeply held spiritual beliefs. All parents, children, and families in Maryland deserve the right to pursue their own self-determination and should not be forced to choose between their counselor and their faith values.”

The Maryland plan, which recently was introduced, states, “For the purpose of prohibiting certain mental health care practitioners from engaging in certain sexual orientation change efforts with certain patients: providing that a certain mental health care practitioner who engages in certain sexual orientation change efforts with a certain patient shall be considered to have engaged in unprofessional conduct and shall be subject to discipline by a certain licensing board: defining certain terms: and generally relating to the prohibition of sexual orientation change efforts.”

In the California dispute, which is more advanced in the process, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling allowing the state to censor therapists’ statements to clients, but it also then agreed to put the decision on hold until the Supreme Court weighs in.

That state’s change-therapy ban essentially would allow counselors to encourage young clients to abandon heterosexuality and pursue homosexuality, but they would be forbidden from encouraging those same clients from abandoning homosexuality and pursuing heterosexuality.

The 9th Circuit, after it issued the ruling, refused to rehear the case. But that prompted a heated dissent in which three of the judges pointed out that such speech restrictions are not allowed by the Constitution.

“May California remove from the First Amendment’s ambit the speech of certain professionals when the state disfavors its content or its purpose? – The Supreme Court has definitely and unquestionably said ‘No.’ It is no longer within our discretion to disagree,” said the minority opinion from Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain.

He was joined by two other judges in the dissent, which said, “Legislatures cannot nullify the First Amendment’s protections for speech by playing this labeling game.”

“Indeed,” he said, “authoritative precedents have established that neither professional regulations generally, nor even a more limited subclass of rules, remain categorically outside of the First Amendment’s reach.”

Liberty Counsel also is fighting the same plan in New Jersey.

Wrote O’Scannlain: “The panel cites no case holding that speech, uttered by professionals to their clients, does not actually constitute ‘speech’ for purposes of the First Amendment. And that should not surprise us – for the Supreme Court has not recognized such a category. ‘… The Supreme Court has chastened us lower courts for creating, out of whole cloth, new categories of speech to which the First Amendment does not apply. But, that is exactly what the panel’s opinion accomplishes in this case.”

O’Scannlain said the legislature was simply trying to restrict ideas by “defining disfavored talk as ‘conduct.'”

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