Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for August, 2013

Ninth Circuit Court Upholds California’s Gay Therapy Ban for Minors

Jim Burroway

August 29th, 2013

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld California’s law banning licensed profesionals from providing Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors. The critical point during oral arguments before the court was whether the ban infringes on therapists’ free speech rights or regulates professional conduct. In the unanimous decision by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Circuit Judges Susan P. Graber and Margan Christien, the court settled on the latter.

In the opinion written by Judge Graber, the court began by describing what the law, known as SB 1771, does and does not do (PDF: 171KB/36 pages):

Importantly, SB 1172 does not do any of the following:

  • Prevent mental health providers from communicating with the public about SOCE
  • Prevent mental health providers from expressing their views to patients, whether children or adults, about SOCE, homosexuality, or any other topic
  • Prevent mental health providers from recommending SOCE to patients, whether children or adults
  • Prevent mental health providers from administering SOCE to any person who is 18 years of age or older
  • Prevent mental health providers from referring minors to unlicensed counselors, such as religious leaders
  • Prevent unlicensed providers, such as religious leaders, from administering SOCE to children or adults
  • Prevent minors from seeking SOCE from mental health providers in other states

Instead, SB 1172 does just one thing: it requires licensed mental health providers in California who wish to engage in “practices . . . that seek to change a [minor’s] sexual orientation” either to wait until the minor turns 18 or be subject to professional discipline. Thus, SB 1172 regulates the provision of medical treatment, but leaves mental health providers free to discuss or recommend treatment and to express their views on any topic.

The court drew on several precedents, including a case involving unlicensed psychoanalysts, who had claimed that being sanctioned by the state for being unlicensed amounted to an infringement on their free speech rights because, after all, they were only talking in their counseling sessions. Prior courts held that “communication that occurs during psychoanalysis is entitled to constitutional protection, but it is not immune from regulation.” The court also drew on another case in which a doctor’s prescribing privileges were beign revoked because he recommended medical marijuana for his patient. That court drew a distinction between the doctor’s recommendation — a discussion that occured in the office — and the doctor’s prescribing it – which had not occurred — in its ruling in the doctor’s favor. Based on those two cases:

We distill the following relevant principles from NAAP and Conant: (1) doctor-patient communications about medical treatment receive substantial First Amendment protection, but the government has more leeway to regulate the conduct necessary to administering treatment itself; (2) psychotherapists are not entitled to special First Amendment protection merely because the mechanism used to deliver mental health treatment is the spoken word; and (3)
nevertheless, communication that occurs during psychotherapy does receive some constitutional protection, but it is not immune from regulation.

The only remaining question before this court, then, was “whether or how the First Amendment applies to the regulation of specific mental health treatments.” The court chose to approach that question by “view(ing) this issue along a continuum.” At one end is where a professional is speaking publicly as an advocate. At that end, First Amendment protections are at their greatest. But moving toward a middle ground are laws which require doctors to “disclose truthful, nonmisleading information to patients about certain risks of abortion.” In that setting, a previous court had found that “the physician’s First Amendment rights not to speak are implicated, but only as part of the practice of medicine, subject to reasonable licensing and regulation by the State.” (Emphasis in the original.) Also, doctors do not enjoy First Amendment protections for giving negligent medical advice to their patients:

Thus, the First Amendment tolerates a substantial amount of speech regulation within the professional-client relationship that it would not tolerate outside of it. And that toleration makes sense: When professionals, by means of their state-issued licenses, form relationships with clients, the purpose of those relationships is to advance the welfare of the clients, rather than to contribute to public debate.

The far end of the court’s continuum is in the regulation of professional conduct, were that conduct is the provision of a medical service, even if that service is in the form of speech.

Most, if not all, medical treatment requires speech, but that fact does not give rise to a First Amendment claim when the state bans a particular treatment. When a drug is banned, for example, a doctor who treats patients with that drug does not have a First Amendment right to speak the words necessary to provide or administer the banned drug. …

Senate Bill 1172 regulates conduct. It bans a form of medical treatment for minors; it does nothing to prevent licensed therapists from discussing the pros and cons of SOCE with their patients. Senate Bill 1172 merely prohibits licensed mental health providers from engaging in SOCE with minors.

Moving from First Amendment considerations, the court then ruled that California’s legislature had a rational basis for regulating SOCE for minors, that SB 1172 is not unconstitutionaly vague or overly broad, and that it does not infringe on parents’ fundamental rights to determine the care their children would recieve:

We are unaware of any case that specifically addresses whether a parent’s fundamental rights encompass the right to choose for a child a particular type of provider for a particular treatment that the state has deemed harmful, but courts that have considered whether patients have the right to choose specific treatments for themselves have concluded that they do not.

…[T]o recognize the right Plaintiffs assert would be to compel the California legislature, in shaping its regulation of mental health providers, to accept Plaintiffs’ personal views of what therapy is safe and effective for minors. The aforementioned cases lead us to conclude that the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific type of provider for a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful.

Therefore, SB 1172 does not infringe on the fundamental rights of parents.

The Ninth’s ruling settled two conficting lower-court rulings. In one case brought by the PAcific Justice Institute on behalf of two NARTH-associated therapists and a student who claimed to have benefited from SOCE, the lower court granted a very limited preliminary injunction against the state of California from enforcing the law. In a second case brought by Liberty Counsel on behalf of NARTH member David Pickup and backed by NARTH, the lower court denied their petition for an injunction.

NARTH has issued a statement saying that it plans to appeal the Ninth Circuit’s ruling:

At a time when adolescents who experience themselves as being the wrong biological sex are allowed to pursue sexual reassignment surgery, licensed therapists who are willing to assist youth with unwanted same-sex attraction and behaviors will be prohibited from even talking to minors in a manner that could be construed as promoting the pursuit of change.

Politicians and non-elected judges have seen fit to approve of such encroachments on personal and professional freedoms in spite of the fact that the American Psychological Association admits the exact causes of same-sex attractions are not known, virtually no research exists directly addressing the modification of same-sex behaviors and attractions with minors, and the prevalence of harm from such change efforts is unknown and has therefore not been established as being any greater than the rates of harm documented for psychotherapy in general. Furthermore, much research has documented that fluidity in sexual attractions and identity often occurs naturally and is particularly pronounced in adolescence and early adulthood, which suggests the viability of therapeutic change efforts for some youth.

These facts make it clear that science is not at the forefront of this effort to restrict freedoms. If that were the case, gaps in our knowledge of this area would be addressed through a bipartisan program of research, not by the heavy hand of government squelching professional practice in order to appease powerful interests of activists within professional associations and lobbying groups. NARTH sincerely hopes that these crucial facts will be considered by a more receptive judicial audience in the future.

NARTH Counselor Admits Failure in Changing Sexual Orientation, Blames Patient, Sues California for the Right to Try Again

Jim Burroway

January 25th, 2013

The American Medical Association’s publication American Medical News has a very good article about efforts in California and New Jersey to regulate Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). The article opens with a vignette about a patient who has undergone SOCE, failed to change his sexual orientation (predictably), and now has to come to terms with that failure:

After attending a religious-based therapy six times a week and experiencing no change in his sexuality, the patient was left feeling ashamed, depressed and suicidal, Dr. Drescher said.

“I felt sad[ness] and also anger, because sometimes a therapist would say things that were very hurtful to the patient,” said Dr. Drescher, an author and medical expert on gay conversion therapy. He also is president of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, a think tank that analyzes issues in the field of psychiatry. “It’s distressing when you see professionals, regardless if they are well-meaning or otherwise, deliver intentional or inadvertent harm to a patient.”

For an example of just what kind of harmful statements, the article points to Psychiatrist Anthony Duk,  who is a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging California’s ban on SOCE for minors:

“With this bill, what’s really at stake is the definition of masculinity as well as the entire basis of civilization,” he said. “When men don’t act like men, you have a breakdown of traditional family roles and weakening of the entire human race.”

Dr. Duk said he sees about three patients a year who he said need help fighting same-sex attractions. His treatment of such patients has not resulted in the desired outcomes, he said.

“I was not successful with the ones I had because they did not stay long enough,” he said. “The major factor is whether the patient really wants to heal. The ones who want to get better, those are the ones” able to change.

What you will notice is 1) Duk has been unsuccessful in trying to change the sexual orientation of his patients 2) he blames them for their failures, and 3) he wants the State of California to allow him to continue to inflict this same harm onto others — I guess in the vain hope that some day he might get it right?

Harvey Milk International

Jim Burroway

January 15th, 2013

That would be SFO’s new name if this proposal passes the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is approved by voters:

Supervisor David Campos will introduce legislation Tuesday that would place the proposal to rename San Francisco International Airport as Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport before voters in November. To send the name change to voters, Campos needs the support of five other supervisors, and Monday he already had four co-sponsors.

Campos said about 80 other U.S. airports are already named for individuals, none of whom are gay, and that SFO – which moves 40 million passengers annually, including 9 million international travelers – has a particularly high profile. He believes it would cost between $50,000 and $250,000 to implement, citing the cost other cities have incurred to do the same, but said he hopes to attract private donations to fund the change.

Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, supports the proposed change:

“When you think of the 9 million international visitors, coming from many of the 77 countries where it’s still illegal to be LGBT – people forget that there are still 77 countries where it’s criminal to be who you are,” he said. “To be in Dubai, and see on the board a flight that ends at Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport, or to be a young Pakistani, in a country where it is illegal to be gay, look up and see the name of a gay icon and feel, ‘I am not alone’ – it resonates back to my uncle and the calls he got from places like Altoona, Pa., when he was elected.”

Gov. Brown Appeals Injunction Against California Conversion Therapy Law

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2013

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he would appeal a court injunction barring the enforcement of California’s new law which places restrictions on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) provided by licensed therapists:

The notice of appeal was filed on behalf of Brown and the Medical Board of California by state Atty.  Gen. Kamala Harris with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided Dec. 21 to block the law that took effect Jan. 1 pending a decision on its constitutionality.

The Ninth Circuit Court issued its injunction following conflicting rulings from two lower courts earlier in December.

Second Judge Denies Request for Injunction Against California’s Ex-Gay Therapy Bill

Jim Burroway

December 4th, 2012

In a second, separate case filed in Federal District Court seeking to block California’s ban on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) for minors from taking effect, Judge Kimberly K. Mueller denied (via Scribd) Liberty Counsel’s request to issue a preliminary  injunction against the state of California. In Judge Mueller’s 44-page ruling denying the request, she reviewed the state legislature’s methodology for modifying the proposed law in consultation with the state’s licensing mental health organizations which are ultimately responsible for enforcing the ban. She concluded that “the court finds plaintiffs are not likely to prevail on the merits so as to prevail at this stage of the litigation.”

This case is David Pickup v Edmund G Brown, which is NARTH and Liberty Counsel’s challenge to California’s S.B. 1172, which  prohibits California’s licensed professionals from providing SOCE for minors. Therapists who violate the ban will be subject to discipline by the professional organization responsible for their licensing. The bill does not prohibit therapists from providing SOCE to adults, nor does it affect unlicensed counsellors, pastors, and other ex-gay therapy providers such as religious-based ex-gay ministries.

David Pickup, who say s he is ex-gay and is now a therapist with NARTH,  has emerged as NARTH’s chief spokesman against the new law. Pickup was particularly critical of Exodus International when the evangelical ex-gay organization distanced itself earlier this year from Reparative Therapy, a particular form of SOCE which is rooted in a specific set of unproven theories of sexual orientation. (A particularly cringe-worthy video featuring Pickup explaining his approach to “increasing manhood” can be seen here.)

Earlier today, a different Federal District Judge issued a preliminary injunction (via Scribd) which prevents the state of California from enforcing S.B. 1172 against three plaintiffs who are also seeking to overturn the ban. That injunction however is limited to those three plaintiffs only. Judge William Shubb found that the plaintiffs “are likely to succeed on the merits of their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims based on violations of their rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.”

Judge Issues Temporary Injunction Against California’s Gay Therapy Law

Jim Burroway

December 4th, 2012

U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb has issued a very limited temporary injunction which bars the state of California from enforcing its ban on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) for minors when the law goes into effect on January 1. Judge Shubb limited the injunciton’s effectivity to the three ex-gay therapists who have sued to overturn the measure. According to the Associated Press:

U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb made a decision just hours after a hearing on the issue, ruling that the First Amendment rights of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals who engage in “reparative” or “conversion” therapy outweigh concern that the practice poses a danger to young people.

“Even if SB 1172 is characterized as primarily aimed at regulating conduct, it also extends to forms of (conversion therapy) that utilize speech and, at a minimum, regulates conduct that has an incidental effect on speech,” Shubb wrote.

The judge also disputed the California Legislature’s finding that trying to change young people’s sexual orientation puts them at risk for suicide or depression, saying it was based on “questionable and scientifically incomplete studies.”

The injunctions applies only to the three plaintiffs: psychiatrist Anthony Duk, marriage and family therapist Donald Welch, and student Aaron Blitzer who is studying to become an SOCE provider and who claims that he is now heterosexual after having undergone ex-gay therapy. Duk was a speaker at NARTH’s 2011 convention in Phoenix. Blitzer claims that he is now heterosexual after having undergone ex-gay therapy. The three plaintiffs are being represented by the Pacific Justice Institute.

In granting the injunctions, Judge Shubb indicated that the plaintiffs stand a good chance of getting the law struck down on constitutional grounds.

Last October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed S.B. 1172, making California the first in the nation to prohibit licensed professionals in the state from providing SOCE for minors. Therapists who violate the ban will be subject to discipline by the professional organization responsible for their licensing. The bill does not prohibit therapists from providing SOCE to adults, nor does it affect unlicensed counsellors, pastors, and other ex-gay therapy providers such as religious-based ex-gay ministries.

NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi recently admitted that about half of all NARTH clients are teens. NARTH and Liberty Counsel have also joined forces to fight the ban in a separate case in Federal Court.

Update:  Judge Shubb’s ruling is available here (via Scribd).

Voters Send Record Number of LGBT Pols to Washington

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2012

“Now, I am well aware that I will have the honor of being Wisconsin’s first woman senator. And I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member,” Baldwin said to loud cheers and chants of “Tammy, Tammy!” from her supporters. “But I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”

Yesterday’s election was a watershed moment for LGBT equality. Not only did voters defeat attempts to deny marriage equality in four states at the ballot box, but a record number of LGBT representatives will be going to Washington to serve in Congress, including the nation’s first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D) from Wisconsin. With 99.6% of the vote counted, Baldwin defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) 1,528,941 (51.5%) to ,363,994 (45.9%).

Five other openly gay representatives have won their races for Congress. Returning to Congress are Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Cicilline (D-RI). New gay members include Mark Takano (D-CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and Mark Pocan (D-WI). Pocan made history himself be becoming the first openly gay representative to take over a House seat from another openly gay representative when he won Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s old seat.

Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema (D) leads in a tight race over former Paradise Vally mayor Vernon Walker (R) to become the first openly bi member of Congress. All precincts have been reported, but there are still a number of provisional ballots to be counted, making a final call in that race impossible.

Click here to see the latest results for Congress.

Election Liveblog

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2012

2:00 EST: One more thing:

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Retention Vote:
David Wiggins:
Yes (retain): 54% 
No: 46%
83% reporting.

NOM is having a very bad night. A historically bad night. I’m going to bed now and I will sleep very, very soundly.

1:39 EST: President Obama is now giving his victory speech. And with that, I’m going to sign off for the night. I will provide an update with the latest results again tomorrow morning.

1:30 EST: Here is a rundown of all of the LGBT-related races I’ve been following:

BALLOT MEASURES:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.2% √
No: 45.8%
58.1% reporting.

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.2% 
No: 48.1%
96.8% reporting.

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 49.2.5%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 49.2%
67.4% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.8.9%
No: 48.2%
49.9% reporting.

SENATE RACE:

Wisconsin:
Tammy Baldwin (D, openly lesbian): 51.2%
Tommy Thompson (R): 46.2.%
86.8% reporting.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES:

Arizona:
Kyrsten Sinema (D, openly bi): 47.4%
Vernon Parker (R): 46.3%
86% reporting.

California:
Mark Takano (D, openly gay): 54.4%
John Tavaglione (R): 45.6%
13% reporting.

Colorado:
Jared Polis (D, openly gay): 54.6%
Kevin Lundberg (R): 40.4%
45.3% reporting.

Massachusetts:
Richard Tisei (R, openly gay): 47.1%
John Tierney (D) 48.4%
98.3% reporting.

New York:
Sean Patrick Maloney (D, openly gay): 51.7%
Nan Hayworth (R): 48.3%
96.7% reporting.

Rhode Island:
David Cicilline (D, openly gay): 53.1%
Brendan Dohert (R): 40.7%
97.0% reporting

Wisconsin:
Mark Pocan (D, openly gay): 67.4%
Chad Lee (R): 32.6%
90.5% reporting.

12:55 EST: Gov. Mitt Romney is now giving a very classy consession speech, congratulating President Obama for his win.

12:50 EST: Here is a rundown of the ballot measures addressing same-sex marriage. Voters in two states have approved marriage equality. Voters in Washington are on their way to approving marriage equality, and Minnesota voters look poised to turn down a proposal to write a permanent ban on same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution. After voters in 30 states have written marriage equality bans into their state constitutions, we now have a remarkable turnaround in 2012. Remember this day.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54% 
No: 46%
51% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52% 
No: 48%
93% Reporting

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 48.5%
Blanks: 3.7%
Yes: 47.9%
53% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52%
No: 48%
50% reporting.

12:40 EST: Tammy Baldwin has now given her victory speech. With 79% reporting, she has defeated Gov. Tommy Thompson 51-47%, making her the first openly gay Senator in American history.

12:38 EST: Now I’m ready to call Maryland’s Question 6 a win for equality! With 92% reporting, Question 6 has passed 1,126,598 to 1,050,179 (52-48%) Maryland voters have joined those in Maine to approve marriage equality at the ballot box. I don’t know about you, but this really feels like a truly historic turning point.

12:30 EST: Colorado has now gone to Obama, bringing his lead to 290-201. There’s a lot of talk about whether Ohio was prematurely declared, but even if Ohio went red, this would still be Obama’s victory. An ugly one, especially if he doesn’t win the popular vote, but it is a win.

12:28 EST: Another gay congressman is headed to Washington. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) has defeated Rep. Nan Hayworth (R), 52%-48%.

12:15 EST: Believe it or not, Politico has had the results swapped between Question 6 and the “Illegal immigrant tuition” question all night long. For the love of god!!!  Question 6 is up, but only 52-48%, way too early to call.

12:00 EST: With 44.1% reporting in Maine, Question 1 is projected to win!

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.4%
No: 45.6%
44.1% Reporting

11:45 EST: With 81% reporting in Maryland, Question 6 is projected to win!

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
81% Reporting

11:31 EST: Remember James Hartline?

I took my Bible with me today and proudly honored God with my decisions. I refused to vote for the demonized Mormon Cultist Mitt Romney or Obama. Instead, like nearly two million other voters, I marked other and wrote in Jesus.

11:30 EST: Has Tammy Baldwin won her Senate race? Reuters called it, but right now with 53% reporting, she is only up 49-48%. She may yet win, but it looks like a lot of folks might have jumped the gun a bit.

11:23 EST: CNN has given Ohio to Obama. President Barack Obama, the most pro-gay president in American history, has been re-elected.

11:05 EST: A slew of new projections has put Obama on top 243-191. Ohio continues to lean toward Romney, but CNN is now mapping out multiple possibilities for Obama to win even without Ohio.

Here are the state marriage ballot measures. All of them are still looking good so far.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 53%
No: 47%
30% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
55% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 52%
Blanks: 3.8%
Yes: 45%
19% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:55 EST: Obama is now tied with Romney, 172-172. Ohio is leaning toward Obama, and FLorida and Virginia are very nearly tied so far. It’s going to be a long night.

10:35 EST: Great news so far in the three states with marriage on the ballot that are reporting:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 55%
No: 45%
16% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 60%
No: 40%
41% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 57%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 42%
7% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:25 EST. In Rhode Island, it looks like openly gay Rep. David Cicilline has defeated Republican challenger Brendan Doherty. With 82% reporting, Cicilline is ahead 50-44%.

In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei is trailing in his question to become the first openly gay Republican congressman. Rep. John Tierney is leading 49-47% with 58% reporting.

10:15 EST: We can celebrate Tammy Baldwin’s win now. Fox News is projecting that she will be the new fabulously openly lesbian Senator from Wisconsin. History is made!

Question 1 in Maine is now tightening. With 11% reporting, it is now up 53-47%.

10:00 EST: Mitt Romney has won his home state of Utah. But he lost New Hampshire

With 7% reporting, Question 1 is passing in Maine, 55-45%.

With 23% reporting, Question 6 is passing in Maryland, 61-39%.

With only 3% reporting, Amendment 1 is trailing in Minnesota. 61-38%, with about 1.5% of the ballots blank for the proposed amendment. Blank ballots are will be counted as no votes.

9:45 EST: CNN Projects Elizabeth Warren (D) has unseated Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts, and JOe Donnelly (D) has defeated Richard Mourdock (R) in Indiana. God’s will, you know. These are both pick-ups for Dems.

9:42 EST: NBC and Fox have given Wisconsin to Obama. CNN has finally given Pennsylvania to Obama also.

9:35 EST: The Associated Press has declared Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) the winner in her Senate race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), making Baldwin the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history. Oops, take that back. The AP has NOT called for Baldwin.

9:20 EST: Fox called Pennsylvania for Obama. I’ll take it.

9:15 EST: Vote counts for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1 are excruciatingly slow. With 3% counted in Maine, Question 1 is trailing 4,253-5,362. In Maryland, Question 6 is passing 192,860-157,767 with only 1% of the vote counted. Obviously with vote tallies this low, it’s way to early to see any trends.

9:00 EST: Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Last polls close in Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas. And with it, a whole slew of new projecitons, mostly lining up with expectations. So far, it looks like the red states are going heavily red, while the blue states are slower to come in. Right now, Romney is up 152-123.

CNN says that the Republicans will hold on to the House. Obama is getting a lot of grief for not campaigning in key House races on behalf of Democratic candidates.

8:50 EST: Alabama is red. Romney is up 82-64.

People are still in line in Florida and Virginia, even as polls have officially closed. Those who are in line will get to vote. Twitter hashtag #stayinline is now trending upward. It sure would have been nice if someone had mentioned to Florida and Virginia election officials that they were supposed to be ready for an election today.

8:30 EST: Polls just closed in Arkansas, which CNN has called for Romney. CNN has also called Tennessee as well, putting Romney ahead 73-64.

So far, only about 1% of the results are in for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1, which means that there aren’t enough results to talk about yet.

8:25 EST: In the Senate races, it looks like the Angus King, the independent candidate for Maine’s Senator to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) is headed to Washington. He hasn’t said which party he will caucus with, but most observers expect that he will caucus with the Dems. Another possible pickup for the Dems might be Joe Donnelly, who is leading Richard Mourdock by 50-44% with 30% of the votes counted. Mourdock, you may recall, got in trouble during the debate when he said that when a child is born as a result of rape, it’s God’s will.

8:16 EST: Georgia now goes to Romney, bringing the EC count to 64-56 for Obama.

8:00 EST: Polls have now closed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

CNN has called a Delaware, DC, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island for Obama, and Oklahoma for Romney. This puts Obama up 64-40 in the Electoral College, with Maine splitting its vote 3-1 for Obama. (Nebraska is the only other state that is not winner-take-all in the Electoral College.)

Virginia officially closed but:

Polls closed in Virginia at 7 p.m. ET, but with long lines at polling places around the state — and those in line still able to vote — the state is delaying counting votes so as not to unduly influence those still waiting in line. Smart move.

7:43 EST: CNN has now called South Carolina and West Virginia for Romney. Not much of a surprise. It’s now Romney, 33-3 in the electoral count.

Polls close in Maryland and Maine at 8:00. Hopefully we’ll start to get an early look at the marriage ballot measures in those states soon after.

7:30 EST: Polls have now closed in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. CNN’s exit poll has Obama up by 3 in Ohio and tied in North Carolina.

7:19 EST: CNN has called Kentucky for Romney, and Vermont for Obama, which means that Romney leads the electoral college count 8-3. And we’re off!

7:00 EST: Polls have closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. First results will probably begin within the half hour. Here are the races I’ll be watching, in addition to the presidential election and any others you think I should keep an eye out for.

Consider the comments thread for this post an open thread, which I’ll be watching for whatever tips you have. And jokes. We may need some jokes. Or videos of cute kittens. Whatever you got. You can also email them by hitting the Contact Us link on the sidebar.

California’s Gov. Brown Signs Ex-Gay Therapy Restrictions Into Law

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2012

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed S.B. 1172, making the Golden State the first in the nation to prohibit licensed professionals in the state from providing Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) for minors. Therapists who violate the ban will be subject to discipline by the professional organization responsible for their licensing. In response to objections by various mental health licensing organizations, the earlier civil penalties were removed from the bill. The bill does not prohibit therapists from providing SOCE to adults, nor does it affect unlicensed counsellors, pastors, and other ex-gay therapy providers such as religious-based ex-gay ministries.

The law takes effect on January 1. NARTH and Liberty Counsel have vowed to challenge the law in court. Legislators in New Jersey and other states are considering similar measures.

 

California’s Ex-Gay Therapy Restrictions Go To Gov. Brown

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2012

As expected, the California Senate quickly approved the stripped down version of the proposed restrictions on ex-gay therapy for minors by licensed therapists that passed the House on Monday. The bill is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Brown has not indicated whether he will sign the bill or not.

The bill, known as S.B 1172, prohibits California’s licensed professionals from offering Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors under the age of eighteen. Unlike earlier versions of the bill, the state of California will not enforce the ban. That task will fall to the professional organization responsible for licensing the mental health professional. And also unlike earlier versions of the bill, no penalties or sanctions are specified; they are left up to the licensing organization to determine. Unlicensed organizations and individuals — religious-based ex-gay ministries, pastors, unlicensed counselors and life coaches, etc. — are not subject to the ban on providing SOCE for minors.

California Passes Ex-Gay Therapy Restrictions

Jim Burroway

August 28th, 2012

The California Assembly today, in a 51-21 vote, approved a significantly scaled-back measure to ban licensed therapists in the state of California from providing Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors under the age of eighteen. The bill must now go back to the Senate to be reconciled with a much broader version of the bill which passed that chamber last May. The scope of the bill was significantly reduced in order to win the approval of several state mental health professional organizations.

When the bill was first introduced into the Senate, there were additional provisions which would have required that adults undergoing SOCE to sign a state-mandated informed consent form, and it would have left therapists open to fines of $$5,000 or “actual damages, or statutory damages” if the client later determined that he or she had been harmed by the therapy or if the therapist had contravened California’s restrictions on SOCE. Due to objections form several mental health organizations, the state-mandated informed consent form was dropped, and the fines were eliminated in favor of a new clause which subjects the licensed therapist “to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.” The bill affects licensed therapists only. It does not affect religious-based ex-gay ministries or unlicensed pastors, counselors or self-described “life coaches.”

Due to the opposition to the original bill by mental health professional organizations, it is expected that the House version of the bill will go back to the Senate for approval rather than having a compromise bill being worked out between the two chambers. After Senate approval, it will then go on to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature. He has not yet indicated his position on the bill.

NARTH and Liberty Counsel Pledge To Fight California Ex-Gay Therapy Ban In Court

Jim Burroway

July 5th, 2012

With the California Assembly poised to consider S.B. 1172, which would bar licensed therapists in California from offering therapies identified as Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors, the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and Liberty Counsel pledged in an email blast to NARTH supporters to seek to have the law blocked in court if it becomes law:

NARTH to officially work with Liberty Council to pursue an injunction and all other necessary court action against SB 1172
While we are doing everything possible to defeat SB 1172 in the California Assembly NARTH is also working with Liberty Council to stop this destructive legislation if it is passed and signed into law by the Governor. As we have said from the beginning, NARTH will continue to oppose these efforts to limit client rights by taking whatever action is legally open to us as an organization. 

The proposed legislation has been scaled back since it was first introduced in the Senate in April. The provisions requiring that adult clients seeking SOCE sign a mandated informed consent statement has been dropped, along with provisions allowing SOCE clients to sue their therapists if they feel they were harmed by such therapies. The Senate approved S.B. 1172 on a 23-13 vote in May. Because the proposed law would only apply to licensed therapists, religious ex-gay ministries are exempt. In  a statement on SOCE issued in June, Exodus International declined to oppose the bill.

California Senate Passes Ex-Gay Therapy Bill

Jim Burroway

May 30th, 2012

The California state Senate today passed SB 1172, a bill which will prohibit licensed professionals from providing sexual orientation change therapy for patients under the age of eighteen. The bill would also mandates an informed consent statement to be signed by adults seeking ex-gay therapy. Because the bill applies only to licensed therapists, religious ex-gay ministries and programs are not affected by the legislation.

The bill passed in a 23-13 vote, and is now on its way to the House.

There Were No Bachelorette Parties at The Abbey in WeHo Last Night

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2012

The Elizabeth Taylor shrine at The Abbey in West Hollywood

Two thoughts: 1) I couldn’t be happier, and 2) what on earth took them so long? This is from their press release:

Every Friday and Saturday night, we’re flooded with requests from straight girls in penis hats who want to ogle our go-gos, dance with the gays and celebrate their pending nuptials. They are completely unaware that the people around them are legally prohibited from getting married,” said David Cooley, Founder of The Abbey.  “Over the past 22 years, The Abbey has been a place that accepts everyone, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and everything in between. We love our straight girlfriends and they are welcome here, just not for bachelorette parties.”

It has long been a policy at The Abbey to deny admission to groups in costume, including Bachelorette regalia. Bachelorette parties had previously been allowed inside if they removed their costumes. The Abbey’s ‘bachelorette ban’ comes on the heels of a ban on gay marriage in North Carolina and a number of other states across the South.   The Abbey encourages other gay-owned and operated establishments to institute their own bans as a sign of solidarity until marriage is legal everywhere for everyone.

To be honest, I’m surprised that The Abbey is just now getting around to this. I was in Washington, D.C. in 2008 for a conference, and decided to take in an evening at Town, a large two-story dance club. This was the year that marriage bans were on the ballot in California, Florida, and my home state of Arizona, and more than a year before marriage equality arrived in D.C. On the lower level of the club was one of the most impressive drag shows I’ve ever scene, polluted, I might say, by a obnoxious bachelorette party flaunting their privilege. They were partying in a gay club while the rest of us had to stand there and be reminded that even in our own spaces we were second class citizens. I found it unspeakably rude. I’m glad to see these bans in place, but more importantly I will be thrilled to see them thrown out when we can all celebrate marriages equally.

It’s Still 1967 at Biola University

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2012

I think the opening paragraph in this report says it all:

Officials at a private Christian university in Southern California held a “family discussion” on Friday after revelations of a community of homosexual students rocked the 100-year-old campus. [Emphasis added]

I had to check the dateline to make sure it was 2012. Biola University is an evangelical campus of 6,000-plus students south of Los Angeles, and they are shocked — actually, “rocked” — to find that a few of them are gay. A group of Biola University students made themselves known a few weeks ago by creating a web site, asking “to be treated with equality and respected as another facet of Biola’s diversity.” That web site drew a lengthy response (PDF: 172KB/4 pages), reminding everyone that “all members of the University community are expected to following the teachings of scripture” before reiterating Biola’s position regarding “any act of sexual intimacy between two persons of the same sex, as illegitimate moral options for the confessing Christian.”

MSNBC has followed up on the group which “has shaken this 104-year-old Christian college”:

Chris Grace, vice president for student development at Biola, said the school would like to engage in conversation with the underground group but has been stymied by the members’ anonymity. “We really are at a disadvantage here because we don’t know who these people are,” Grace said, adding that the university would “love and welcome a conversation with them and that’s what we are hoping for.”

But members of BQU, who would only comment for this story anonymously, fear that by “coming out” they would be punished and possibly expelled. They said they consider themselves Christians “first and foremost” and love Biola, and are not looking to create “a war” on campus, but they are looking to have an open discussion about what it means to be Christian and gay.

Eventually, Members of the group would like to “come out” and be open about their sexuality. “It’s important to our integrity to not have parts of us be hidden even among the Christian community,” a member said.

In 1967, Time reported on what was believed to be the first gay students group in the nation forming on the campus of Columbia University. Like these Biola University students, they too feared identifying themselves. Biola University is only 26 miles from West Hollywood, but 45 years away from the first stirrings of dignity on its own campus. That’s a lot of catching up to do.

Welcome back proposal

Timothy Kincaid

April 27th, 2012

A few days ago Pendleton Air Force Marine Base in San Diego was the site of another first (LGBT Weekly):

Finally, luggage in tow, Guerrero emerged with a smile on his face. Upon seeing Huston, Guerrero dropped his bags; aimed a kiss toward Huston’s lips; and opened his arms to his boyfriends waiting embrace. The time and distance of 10 months’ separation evaporated in a public show of affection that less than a year ago would have been cause for court martial. After a few minutes of emotional holding and kissing, Huston went anxiously down on one knee; looked up at Guerrero, who was dressed from head to toe in military fatigues; and produced an engagement ring and the time-honored phrase, “Will you marry me?”

Huston’s mild tremble, a result of hours and days of anticipation about this day, was quickly quieted by the one word every hopeful fiancé wants to hear: “Yes.”

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Brits are debating whether to adopt Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to replace civil unions with full legal equality for same-sex couples. This ad is one piece in the campaign. (tissue warning)

YouTube Preview Image

Why I oppose the ‘Don’t Say Ex-Gay’ bill

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

April 26th, 2012

As has been discussed on other threads, the California State Legislature is proposing a bill that will prohibit licensed mental health professionals from offering therapy to minors with the goal of diminishing same-sex attraction or encouraging opposite-sex attraction. Many in our community, including other Box Turtle Bulletin authors, see this as at least a partially positive action. I see it a horrific.

There are many reasons, some philosophical – some pragmatic, why I oppose this bill. Here are a few:

It isn’t needed

No mental health organization has called for this action. But that is not because of ignorance about the issue or a lack of willingness to address it.

In August 2009 the American Psychological Association Task Force Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation issued it’s report. The conclusion was

The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates. Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation. Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.

However, the findings seem to stop short of banning change therapy. And this is an important distinction.

The Task Force also found

The conflict between psychology and traditional faiths may have its roots in different philosophical viewpoints. Some religions give priority to telic congruence (i.e., living consistently within one’s valuative goals) (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Richards & Bergin, 2005). Some authors propose that for adherents of these religions, religious perspectives and values should be integrated into the goals of psychotherapy (Richards & Bergin, 2005; Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006). Affirmative and multicultural models of LGB psychology give priority to organismic congruence (i.e., living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Gonsiorek, 2004; Malyon, 1982). This perspective gives priority to the unfolding of developmental processes, including self-awareness and personal identity.

This difference in worldviews can impact psychotherapy. For instance, individuals who have strong religious beliefs can experience tensions and conflicts between their ideal self and beliefs and their sexual and affectional needs and desires (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; D. F. Morrow, 2003). The different worldviews would approach psychotherapy for these individuals from dissimilar perspectives: The telic strategy would prioritize values (Rosik, 2003; Yarhouse & Burkett, 2002), whereas the organismic approach would give priority to the development of self-awareness and identity (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004). It is important to note that the organismic worldview can be congruent with and respectful of religion (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Glassgold, 2008; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004; Mark, 2008), and the telic worldview can be aware of sexual stigma and respectful of sexual orientation (Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006; Tan, 2008; Yarhouse, 2008). Understanding this philosophical difference may improve the dialogue between these two perspectives represented in the literature, as it refocuses the debate not on one group’s perceived rejection of homosexuals or the other group’s perceived minimization of religious viewpoints but on philosophical differences that extend beyond this particular subject matter. However, some of the differences between these philosophical assumptions may be difficult to bridge.

In a nutshell, that says that different people with different worldviews benefit from different types of therapy. Not exactly a shocking revelation.

The APA is taking a measured and cautious approach designed to address the needs of patients. They are looking to efficacy, but not only to results. They are also considering the side effects – positive and negative – of such therapy. And they are seeking ways to improve communication between differing people so as to maximize mental health consequences.

Which, of course, is of no concern to the California State Legislature. Their agenda is political, not therapeutic.

This removes all therapy for some individuals

Our community tends to focus on the potential harm of change therapy. And there is potential harm. But we are reluctant to admit that some people benefit from this therapy.

No, they don’t change their orientation. But we have heard many people share with us that through their therapy with a change therapist they were able to deal with other issues: finding their own worth, identifying their values, determining what matters, and overcoming messages of condemnation and rejection.

Change therapy has much to be criticized about. But change therapists do attempt to dispel some of the erroneous messages that their patients have heard, including “God hates you” and “you are an abomination” and “you choose to be this way”.

Some may argue that the bad outweighs the good. And in some instances that may be true. But the truth that many forget is that this is the only option for some gay Christian youth. They are not going to have access to an affirmative counselor. They are not going to want access to an affirmative counselor.

And any suggestion on our part that they seek an affirmative therapist is flippant, at best.

This is an extension of a micromanagement ‘government knows best’ approach

Were this coming from a psychiatrist turned state senator, I might see it as a matter of advancing and protecting the interests of the profession. But Senator Ted Lieu is not known for his desire to administer solutions to problems. Rather, it might be best to describe Senator Lieu as a man who is quite convinced that he knows what is best for you and is more than ready to force you to do it. He shares more than a little instinct with Dr. James Dobson – just from the opposite side.

Lieu lists his 2011 Legislative Accomplishments. They consist of a bill to establish committees to decide what job Californians should have, a bill “requiring all pets to be microchipped with the owner’s contact information”, a bill “prohibiting children under the age of 18 from using ultra violet tanning beds”, a bill designed to require out of state employers whose work force is predominantly out of state to provide domestic partner benefits to any employee within the state, a bill which eliminates the right of employers to collect costs or expenses resulting from an illegal strike, a bill which sought to “impose time and place restriction for funeral protests”, and a bill which “prohibits the practice of selling puppies and kittens in parking lots and sidewalks”.

Whether one thinks that these are all good things or all bad things, it’s pretty clear that Lieu has a consistent approach to individual rights: restrict them.

The motivations behind it are less than honorable

In the State of California, there are no more bills that can be passed to put gay people on an equal standing. They have passed them all. The only remaining hurdle is marriage and that is out of the hands of the legislature.

But certain elected officials, and certain gay advocacy groups desperately need for there to be conflict. They regularly send “call your assemblyman, send us money” emails so as to make sure that some unnecessary bill isn’t Defeated by the Right Wing which Wants to Take Away Your Freedom, before it passes overwhelmingly along a party line vote.

This is political cynicism. It is barely even masquerading as anything else. And we are fools if we let ourselves be so easily manipulated.

I was ambivalent about Harvey Milk Day. There’s no need for such a day. There’s no purpose for such a day. But it didn’t harm anyone and wasn’t an expensive waste so I really didn’t much care.

I was troubled about legislation which would require teaching about the contributions to early California history by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (which would involve some pretty creative revisionist storytelling) while banning anything whatsoever that might “negatively reflect” on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. This was a purely undisguised propaganda bill related in spirit to St. Petersburg’s bill to ban “homosexual propaganda”. Both are attempts to push a point of view while silencing any differing views. You may recall that I didn’t rejoice over that piece of Big Brother heavy-handedness.

This is the next logical step.

Having banned divergent views in the classroom, the legislature now is entering the private sphere to dictate what can and cannot be said.

Before we get all giddy that our views are winning and their views are banned, let’s ask ourselves what it is that we believe.

I hear so very much about “the h8ters”. But is it hate that we oppose, or just the target? If it is hate, then why do those who complain about them the most do so in terms or bald unvarnished hatred?

I hear that it is awful that Tennessee legislators want to ban support for gay kids in school. Is it the refusal to support that is bad, or is it only the target? Because if it is the refusal to support, why are we not upset about conservative kids who will not no longer be allowed to seek therapy that they find supportive?

Before we go down the “I’m right, so what I do is right” road, let’s recall that history and politics are a pendulum. It is swinging in our direction at the moment. But let our behavior and our responses be such that when it reverses, the structures and principles we set in place will ensure that we are not harmed.

Because the laws we pass today to punish, inhibit, and deny rights to those whom we feel are wrong or bad or inferior will give birth to the laws that will be used against us in the future.

Three Things You Should Consider About CA’s Proposed Ex-Gay Therapy Curbs

A commentary.

Jim Burroway

April 25th, 2012

There has been a lot of very brief reporting on a proposed California law to curb ex-gay therapy. Two things stood out for just about everyone who picked it up: 1) the law would ban ex-gay therapy for those who are under the age of 18, and 2) the law would require that two specific paragraphs be a part of the informed consent form that the patient would have to sign before therapy can begin. That’s a very brief summary of a 1200-word bill, so as you can expect, there are a lot of details being glossed over (that includes our initial report on the proposed law).

1: The Proposed Law Does Not Ban All Ex-Gay Therapy For Those Under 18.

There are a set of definitions that are critical to understanding what this law would do. Under Article 15, we read:

(b) “Psychotherapist” means a physician and surgeon specializing in the practice of psychiatry, a psychologist, a psychological assistant, a psychiatric technician, a marriage and family therapist, a registered marriage and family therapist, intern, or trainee, an educational psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, an associate clinical social worker, a licensed professional clinical counselor, or a registered clinical counselor, intern, or trainee.

Pay attention to what is not included in this list: pastors, ministers and lay counselors. What this list conveys is that those who are licensed or registered, or who are in training to become licensed or registered, would be subjected to the proposed law. In other words, California would be acting under its licensing and registration authority, and that authority does not extend to the religious sphere. Nor can it under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The next two important definitions build on the one above:

(c) “Psychotherapy” means the professional assessment, evaluation, treatment, or counseling of a mental or emotional illness, symptom, or condition by a psychotherapist.

(d) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means psychotherapy aimed at altering the sexual or romantic desires, attractions, or conduct of a person toward people of the same sex so that the desire, attraction, or conduct is eliminated or reduced or might instead be directed toward people of a different sex. It does not include psychotherapy aimed at altering sexual desires, attractions, or conduct toward minors or relatives or regarding sexual activity with another person without that person’s consent. [Emphases mine.]

Having defined “Psychotherapist” in (b), and having restricted “Psychotherapy” to being a practice done according to the person defined as a “Psychotherapist” in (c), and having restricted the definition of “sexual orientation change efforts” according to the definition of “Psychotherapy” in (d), the proposed law narrowly restricts the laws effects to licensed and registered members of the medical and mental health professions.

And so when we get to the ban that everyone’s talking about:

865.2. (a) Under no circumstances shall a patient under 18 years of age undergo sexual orientation change efforts, regardless of the willingness of a patient’s parent, guardian, conservator, or other person to authorize such efforts.

(b) The right to refuse sexual orientation change efforts is not waived by giving informed consent and that consent may be withdrawn at any time prior to, during, or between sessions of sexual orientation change efforts.

(c) Any act of duress or coercion by any person or facility shall invalidate the patient’s consent to sexual orientation change efforts. [Emphasis mine.]

What we see is the consistent use of the phrase “sexual orientation change efforts” which was defined earlier to be very specific to “psychotherapy” offered by “psychotherapists,” each with their own specific definitions under this law.

This is critical, because it won’t prevent kids under 18 from being sent to, say, Exodus Board Member Don Schmierer’s His Way Out Ministries, or Living Stones Ministries or to dozens of other ex-gay ministries or churches. And the provisions covering duress or coercion won’t apply either, because they would apply only to those conditions set up in the definitions, and those definitions do not religious or church-based exgay ministries.

What the bill would do is pose a problem for any licensed professionals who work in those ministries. They would be confronted with a choice between giving up their work in those ministries or giving up their licenses. For those whose practice centers solely on ex-gay therapy, the choice will be an easy one: they will give up their licenses. But for those who depend on income from their practices in providing other forms of therapy, this could be a serious dilemma.

But more importantly, it really places the issue of religious freedom in much sharper focus. Already, the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) was quick out of the gate calling the prosed law “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty.” But it is no such thing. Quite the contrary. For those under 18 and their parents, if they want to enter a program that reinforces their religious beliefs, then they will rightly have the option of turning to a religious organization to do so. Which is as it should be. It is not the responsibility of the mental health establishment to enforce parents’ religious beliefs on those under 18.

2. The Proposed Law May Not Eliminate All Ex-Gay Therapy for Those Under 18 By Licensed Professionals.

This is trickier but equally important, and it goes to the very heart of the dishonesty of some of the ex-gay therapists who are licensed. Professional therapists already have a problem in billing insurance companies for their clients who are trying to change their sexual orientation: Insurance companies won’t foot the bill. There is no code in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM) for homosexuality, and a code is always required in insurance forms in order to be compensated. So how do those therapists get paid?

Easy. As I’ve personally heard a number of ex-gay therapists explain it, their clients are invariably distressed, anxious, depressed, and so forth. And there;s a whole smorgasbord of codes for them to chose from. And I know of at least one therapist who admitted that he is very careful about what he writes in his clinical notes. That way, if an insurance company wanted to see the records, it would be very difficult to tell that he was providing sexual orientation change therapy.

In other words, ex-gay therapists have already figured out ways around disclosing the kind of therapy they’re doing. Those practices will only become more widespread. And given the sanctity of client-patient privilege, it is very nearly impossible to investigate what a therapist is doing unless the client blows the whistle.

But that does bring us to a potential timebomb for licensed professionals:

865.3. (a) (1) A cause of action may be brought against a psychotherapist by a patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling if the sexual orientation change efforts were conducted without first obtaining informed consent or by means of therapeutic deception, or if the sexual orientation change efforts were conducted on a patient who was under 18 years of age at any point during the use of the sexual orientation change efforts.

(2) The patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling may recover actual damages, or statutory damages in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000), whichever is greater, in addition to costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

(3) The time for commencement of the action shall be within eight years of the date the patient or former patient attains the age of majority or within five years of the date the patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the patient was subjected to sexual orientation change efforts in violation of this article.

(b) Nothing in this article precludes or limits the right of a patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling to bring a civil action against a psychotherapist arising from other legal claims.

If a therapist does offer sexual orientation change therapy and the client reaches a point where he or she feels damaged by that therapy, the client can seek damages. But if the therapist’s notes and records were already written to obscure the fact that he was offering sexual orientation change therapy, then it would make the patients’ claims more difficult to press. On the other hand, merely defending himself against the charges would prove very costly for the therapist. All licensed therapists would have to carefully weigh that risk if this bill becomes law.

3. The Proposed Bill Inserts California Law Between the Client and Practitioner.

I raise this issue because it is one which should always be carefully considered whenever a bill like this comes along. There are times when I think health care would be much better if government butts out. Two examples are abortion and medical marijuana, which, in my view, have become far too politicized to the point where it’s virtually impossible to discuss the medical merits of those issues. We have right now legislatures mandating invasive and humiliating procedures before an abortion can be obtained under the guise of ensuring the woman’s “informed consent” — as if women had no idea what they were asking for. In my opinion, that’s where some state governments have gone way too far.

Government does play an important role in ensuring that the practice of medicine and psychotherapy (properly defined) is safe and, to a lesser extent, effective. But when government inserts itself between client and practitioner, it really needs to have a damn good reason to do so.  It’s why we have FDA approval for drugs, and it is why doctors in my old hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio, are being rounded up for indiscriminately prescribing Oxycontin (a.k.a. “hillbilly heroin”) to all comers. Those are just two examples where government intrudes into the client-practitioner relationship, and I think we can agree that they are good ones. Medicine (and psychotherapy) is not without risks in the hands of the unscrupulous, unethical, unskilled, or the zealot.

So for me personally, I have no problems with banning ex-gay therapy for those under 18. Parents who have religious reasons for seeking ex-gay therapy for their children will still have plenty of options, and given the actual state of ex-gay therapy there is no reason to believe that those options would be any better or worse than those provided by so-called “experts.” And with regard to ex-gay therapy, informed consent has been a particularly troublesome area all along, which is the second major area this law proposes to address. But I do have one quibble with the legislation. It mandates that the following two paragraphs be included in the informed consent form for the prospective patient to read and sign:

“Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.”

To be absolutely precise, those statements aren’t the medical establishment’s opinion on sexual orientation change efforts. Strictly speaking, they represent the California legislature’s interpretationof the medical establishment’s opinion. I think it happens to be a very accurate interpretation today, but it may not be accurate tomorrow. And the problem with California law — and any law — is that it has a way becoming indelibly written far past its prime. Remember, a 1955 law requiring California to conduct research on curing homosexuality wasn’t repealed until 2010. While I doubt that the science will change much, having this statement engraved in law may be good law for 2012, but it’s never good medical practice to have anything set in stone. It would be far better if the legislation directed the state health department to either compose the paragraph, or give it authority to revise it as conditions warrant.

California Senate Proposes Limits On Ex-Gay Therapy

Jim Burroway

April 24th, 2012

California state Sen. Ted Lieu (D) has introduced legislation in the California Senate that would prohibit performing ex-gay thearpy on children under the age of 18. The full text of SB 1172, which was approved with changes by a Senate Subcommittee yesterday, can be found here. It  would also prohibit providing ex-gay therapy to anyone without written informed consent, specifies that the informed consent form must have the following statement:

“Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.”

The bill would also specify that “Any act of duress or coercion by any person or facility shall invalidate the patient’s consent to sexual orientation change efforts.” Failure to adhere to these provisions would leave practitioners open to minimum fines of $5,000. It does not, however, ban ex-gay therapy outright. Nevertheless, NARTH is upset over the proposal. While NARTH tries to position itself as a secular, scientific organization, their first fundraising appeal attacking SB 1172 calls the proposal “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty.” NARTH’s more complete objections to SB 1172 can be found here.

Prop 8 Supporters To Petition for En Banc Review

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2012

Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for the proponents of Proposition 8, told Metro Weekly that they intend to file a petition before today’s end-of-the-day deadline asking that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the decision handed down by a three-judge panel upholding a lower court’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Once the filing is made, the entire 20-member court will vote on whether to hold an en banc review. If they approve the petition, then Judge Alex Kozinski, the circuit’s chief judge, and 10 randomly selected judges from the circuit will hear the en banc appeal. That will involve more briefs, more hearings and more time, virtually guaranteeing that the case won’t reach the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

Older Posts