- - Monday, December 17, 2012

California, the land of the “tolerant,” recently has become the land of censorship and oppression, thanks to its passage of SB 1172. Set to go into effect Jan. 1, this new law bans anyone under the age of 18 from receiving licensed counseling that in any way steers them away from same-sex attraction, including away from sexual acts.

Under SB 1172, if a 14-year-old is fearful or depressed because of some feelings of same-sex attraction, he could not request any counseling that would help him understand and minimize those feelings. Soon, only counseling affirming same-sex attraction and behaviors will be allowed in California. Parental wishes regarding the kind of counseling their child needs are irrelevant under this statute. Religious youths will be unable to receive any reparative counseling from their clergy who are licensed counselors. In fact, all licensed counselors or psychiatrists are explicitly censored from providing reparative counseling, despite a professional assessment that such counseling is critical to their patient.

How did this draconian censorship of the mental health professions become law? Activists for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights pushed for this one-size-fits-all approach to counseling premised on the idea that all same-sex attraction is 100 percent genetic. Therefore, any kind of reparative counseling to the contrary is presumed a waste of time. In fact, they contend that — based on their logic — such guaranteed failure of counseling will only frustrate and depress unsuspecting young patients.

Never mind that there are countless testimonials from people, including youths, who have overcome same-sex attractions and live happy heterosexual lives.

Never mind that even an American Psychological Association report on homosexuality (2009) acknowledges that sexual orientation is not determined solely by biology or genetics but also by psychological and cultural factors.

Never mind that even institutions like Kaiser Permanente have acknowledged that sexual orientation can be fluid well into adulthood.

Apparently, to the detriment of countless struggling youths, acknowledgment of such realities would simply be too inconvenient for a movement committed to stamping out anything standing in the way of mandatory social acceptance of the homosexual “lifestyle” and its corresponding sexual conduct.

Legislatures certainly have the legal prerogative to enact standards intended to protect patients from harm. Such prerogatives do not amount to a license to engage in legislative negligence resulting from apparent ignorance. Nor can they pass any law inhibiting fundamental rights, such as free speech, the free exercise of religion, privacy and association of anyone (including licensed counselors), absent evidence to support a compelling state interest to do so.

Fortunately for the many directly threatened by SB 1172, federal district Judge William B. Shubb in California recently issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting this new law from going into effect. Plaintiffs in the case include a licensed counselor, a psychiatrist and a student of psychology. In a thorough 38-page opinion, the justice found that what the Legislature relied upon to support this bill was based on “questionable and scientifically incomplete studies.”

Judge Shubb therefore declared this bill was likely to be held in violation of counselors’ rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. His decision is by no means the final say on this issue, however. The case has yet to be heard on the merits. One way or the other, it likely will make its way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, possibly, the U.S. Supreme Court.

No one can deny the significance of this decision. Despite all of the social and political pressures on our judiciary to compromise and conform to the latest entree on the politically correct menu, this judge’s opinion is a reminder that our rights to freedom of speech cannot be so easily swept under the rug of political expediency.

Without question, scores of licensed counselors and psychiatrists in California do not agree with this overtly restrictive censorship. It is for these professionals that we at Pacific Justice Institute are committed to continuing this lawsuit to ensure defense of such civil rights. The fate and liberty of thousands of youths and their parents, as well as the rights of countless licensed counselors, hang in the balance.

Unfortunately, whether California learns this lesson in the courts will likely impact the rights and pursuit of happiness of millions for generations to come.

After all, true tolerance goes both ways. California’s attempted “one-way tolerance” isn’t tolerance at all. It’s tyranny.

Brad Dacus is an attorney and founder of Pacific Justice Institute.

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