Family Policy Blog
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by Kira Nelson | March 6, 2014
Gay activists are calling for a public apology from the authors of SB 1062, Arizona’s religious freedom bill.
If not vetoed by the governor, SB 1062 would have protected the religious freedoms of business owners and craftsmen. For example, a Christian photographer who believed that gay marriage was in opposition to his religious convictions could decline to photograph a gay wedding. In order to claim religious freedom protections under SB 1062, the photographer would have had to demonstrate an actual sincere religious conviction. The law would have protected the photographer’s rights whether being sued by a private or governmental entity.
SB 1062 wouldn’t have actually changed anything. The right to freedom of religious expression is safeguarded in the Constitution. Unfortunately recent judicial decisions have challenged that right. SB 1062 would have merely explicitly safeguarded already existing freedoms.
SB 1062 would have made certain that governmental laws could not force people to violate their faith unless it had a compelling governmental interest. Cathi Herrod, president of CAP and contributing author of SB 1062 noted that this balancing of interests has been in federal law since 1993.
In a statement, Herrod said opponents of the measure distorted its intent, which she said was to "guarantee that all Arizonans would be free to live and work according to their faith."
But gay activist connected with Citizens for a Better Arizona swarmed the conservative Center for Arizonian Policy (CAP) building last Wednesday demanding a formal apology from Herrod.
Irate protesters stated that Herrod was a puppeteer and that Arizona overwhelmingly supports the LGBT community. One protester suggested returning with Molotov cocktails while another suggested running Herrod “out of town.”
The degree of anger directed at Herrod is disturbing. It seems odd that a group committed to equality and safe guarding constitutional rights, such as Citizens for a Better Arizona claim to be, could be so determined limit the freedoms of others.
by Joseph Backholm | March 4, 2014
The story is actually two years old, but it couldn't be more timely.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez believes that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. Gov. Martinez also needs haircuts.
But two years ago, her hair stylist, Antonio Darden, said that he would refuse to cut the Governor's hair as long as she continues to support the natural and historical understanding of marriage.
According to Darden, "It's just equality, dignity for everyone. Everybody should be allowed the right to be together."
Why is it that you know about the florists, photographers, and bakeries who didn't want to be part of same-sex weddings but you don't know about the stylist who refused to cut the Governor's hair?
Instead of filing a lawsuit, Gov. Martinez simply found someone else to cut her hair.
Last week, the possibility that Arizona would allow all businesses the freedom to make the same decision this gay hair stylist in New Mexico exercised was described as a return to the days of Jim Crow.
In a similar story, a lesbian who wanted a short haircut in Toronto filed a complaint against a Muslim barber shop that refuses to cut women's hair because of their belief that it is inappropriate for them to touch women who are not in their family.
Can you make a man touch a woman who is not a relative? These days, who knows?
In one sense, the entire conversation seems trivial.
Our nation is chronically unemployed.
We have more debt than we'll ever pay; $55,000 per citizen.
The Russians have threatened to take over another country after Putin convinced us not to deploy the third phase of the missile defense shield, SM3 IIb, because he's just a big, cuddly, misunderstood teddy bear.
Iran has vowed to eliminate Israel from the map and is trying to build nuclear weapons.
Still, while some of the cases seem trivial, the question being asked is not.
Should you have the freedom to do things that I think are mean?
Those who support natural marriage surely chuckle at the idea that their hair is not worthy to be cut.
In the same way, those who identify as homosexuals cannot possibly imagine why someone would object to being part of the happiest day of their life.
Isn't that ok?
Shouldn't we have the freedom to have a passionate debate and agree to disagree without one party becoming the slave of the other? Isn't the whole "conquered peoples" concept something we've moved past?
Liberty should allow people to make choices I don't understand, especially when the only possible harm is that my feelings will be hurt.
Whether you're a gay hairstylist who doesn't like your Governor or a Muslim barber with religious beliefs about what is appropriate with women, everyone has limits.
A culture that respects the dignity of the individual allows each person to draw those boundaries for themselves, not have them imposed or erased based on the preferences of the current political majority.
Hopefully, all the gay hairstylists will defend the rights of photographers, florists, and bakeries not to bake cakes for their same-sex "wedding", otherwise they might one day find themselves being forced to cut the Governor of New Mexico's hair.
Fair is fair.
Your contribution of $5 or more helps us defend religious freedom in Washington State.
by Kira Nelson | February 28, 2014
Instead of trying to uphold her state’s laws, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has announced not to defend them.
Ellen Rosenblum, Attorney General for the State of Oregon, announced on Thursday, February 20, in a legal filing that she will not defend the state’s ban on gay marriage claiming that it violates the national constitution.
Rosenblum isn’t the first attorney general to take such a stance. Six state attorney generals have refused to defend marriage laws in their states, among them Kathleen Kane of Pennsylvania and most recently Mark Herring of Virginia.
United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in an interview on Monday, February 24, that state attorneys generals are not obligated to defend laws that they believe are discriminatory, specifically laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Rosenblum's decision was contained in a brief filed in Eugene with U.S. District Judge Michael McShane. McShane is scheduled to hear a challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage that was voted into the state constitution by the citizens of Oregon in 2004.
Rosenblum’s actions and the actions of attorney generals in other states raise some interesting questions about the role of the attorney general. The job of the attorney general is to defend the laws of his or her state. You can think of the Oregon as being
Rosenblum’s client. Thus legally Rosenblum is required energetically argue in favor of Oregon’s existing laws even if she personally disagrees with them.
Ed Whelan, a prominent conservative legal analyst who current serves as President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and writes weekly bench memos on United States Supreme Court decisions, argues that attorney generals that refuse to defend their states laws are violating their duties as lawyers.
Under well-settled principles of the American adversary system, a lawyer is ethically obligated to represent his client’s legal position zealously in court. If there are nonfrivolous arguments that can be made in favor of the client’s position, then the lawyer is required to advance the most advantageous arguments in favor of his client. A lawyer may never fail to advocate a defensible position simply because he personally believes it to be legally incorrect.
When the role of the attorney general is understood properly, it is not that of a lawmaker. The role of an attorney general is to energetically represent the state’s interests in the courts. By refusing to defend a law that the people of Oregon voted for in 2004, Rosenblum is proving she doesn’t want to be the attorney general. If Rosenblum wants to be a lawmaker, rather than a law defender, I would recommend she run for the legislature.
by Joseph Backholm | February 28, 2014
The Senate Health Care committee failed to vote on two separate bills with significant implications for conscience rights, religious freedom, and parental rights in their last committee meeting before today’s deadline. This signals the likely death for an Abortion Insurance Mandate (HB 2148) as well as a bill to ban Sexual Orientation Change Therapy (HB 2451).
This represents the third-year in a row the Abortion Insurance Mandate, the top priority of the abortion industry in Washington, has died in the Senate after passing the House. It would have required every insurance policy bought and sold in Washington State to cover abortion, which would require every insurance customer to effectively subsidize abortion through their insurance premiums.
While many states, including Washington, pay for abortion with taxpayer dollars, no state has taken the step of requiring every individual, business, or church that purchases health insurance to become de facto partners in the abortion business in violation of their conscience. Neither will Washington-at least for now.
This was the first time a ban on Sexual Orientation Change Therapy (SOCE) was introduce in the Washington legislature. A bill to study the issue was introduced in Washington in 2013 but failed to pass.
Similar bills passed in New Jersey and California last year and have been introduced in Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
The ban on SOCE appears to be a new point of emphasis for the gay lobby. It is likely that the bill will return again next year even if it does not pass this session. A list of concerns with the bill can be found here and here.
A summary of the arguments made in support of and opposition to the bill in a Senate committee hearing can be found here.
In the legislature, no bill is ever completely dead until everyone goes home. In fact, some bills become law without ever having a hearing in either the House or the Senate. However, bills that fail to make it out of committee’s by the deadline are generally not heard from again during that session.
The fact that these bills did not become law can be attributed in large part to the number of people who reached out to their legislators on these issues. Offices told us that they had received hundreds of calls on these issues and that communication from constituents made a significant difference.
Your willingness to take a few moments out of your life to write an email or make a quick phone call has made the world a slightly better place than it would have been otherwise. So thank you.
You can and should continue to email your legislators about these or any other issue that concerns you by click here. Your conversations with lawmakers will become even more effective if they don’t only occur during a “crisis”.
You are encouraged to thank the members of the Senate Health Care committee for not advancing these bills that would significantly harm conscience rights. It’s always nice to hear someone say “thank you”, especially when you’re a legislator.
Becker, Randi (R) Chair, (360) 786-7602
Dammeier, Bruce (R) Vice Chair, (360) 786-7648
Pederson, Jamie (D) Ranking Minority Member (360) 786-7628
Angel, Jan (R), (360) 786-7650
Bailey, Barbara (R), (360) 786-7618
Cleveland, Annette (D), (360) 786-7696
Keiser, Karen (D), (360) 786-7664
Parlette, Linda Evans (R), (360) 786-7622
Thank you for being part of the team.
by Emily Minick and Danille Turissini | February 27, 2014
“Women in the state of Washington should be allowed to make their own informed decisions regarding their health and insurance coverage.”
We could not agree more.
It is ironic because this is the same argument supporters of H.B. 2148, the so-called “Reproductive Parity Act,” made during hearings and debate on this bill, but we oppose the bill. This bill would require every insurance carrier in the state of Washington to include “voluntary termination of pregnancy coverage” alongside their maternal benefits package. In other words, every one regardless of ethical concerns would be required to pay for elective abortion coverage.
Mandating that all insurance companies include elective abortion coverage in their plans is anything but allowing women to choose for themselves what plan works best for their life, family and values.
It seems that supporters of H.B. 2148 are only in favor of allowing women to make the “right” choice for abortion coverage. If a woman does not want elective abortion coverage included in her healthcare plan, as many women said in their testimony before committee, she will be forced into compliance or be left with no other choice but to forfeit maternity coverage. This is especially problematic for women of child-bearing age.
Currently, there is no lack of access to insurance plans that include elective abortion coverage. In fact, every insurance provider on the Washington state exchange includes abortion coverage, thereby, rendering H.B. 2148 totally unnecessary.
The mandate would affect not only the state exchange, but alsoemployer-based healthcare plans. If a private family business owner, due to their deeply held moral beliefs, does not want to provide elective abortion coverage in their employee healthcare plan, they could be forced to cease offering that coverage for their employees and their families, or pay massive fines of up to $100 per day per employee for non-compliance. These crippling fines are devastating for any size business and will cost $36,500 per year per employee.
Family businesses, their employees, and women should be able to choose which health plan is right for them without the state government coercing them to purchase a healthcare plan that includes elective abortion coverage.
No other state requires that all insurance companies operating in a state include elective abortion coverage, without question, without exception.
During the recent House Health Care and Wellness public hearing on H.B. 2148, Clark County Republican Rep. Paul Harris suggested an alternative mandate would be a requirement that insurance companies provide a summary of benefits that clearly state whether a policy covers abortion or not. Likewise, U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has sponsored “The Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act,” which essentially does the same thing, in that it requires all health care plans to inform consumers at the time of purchase about elective abortion coverage. In either case, state or federal, women who want to purchase a plan that includes elective abortion could do so, but women who do not wish to pay for elective abortion are not forced to do so.
Respecting the freedom of conscience is a long held American tradition. H.B. 2148, if passed, would not protect people of conscience nor protect women who do not want elective abortion coverage included in their healthcare plan.
H.B. 2148, the so-called Reproductive Parity Act, would eliminate choice, freedom and personal decision-making in women’s healthcare. There is no “parity” about this bill - it should be more accurately referred to as the “Abortion Insurance Mandate.”
All women in the state of Washington should be concerned about this bill and work to ensure no woman is forced into compliance by the state government simply because she holds her own opinion and beliefs.
Emily Minick is a senior legislative assistant at the Family Research Council and Danille Turissini is the grassroots director at the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
by Joseph Backholm | February 26, 2014
A bill to protect conscience rights and religious freedom (SB 1062) is causing an uproar in Arizona in ways that have become sadly predictable.
It is now reasonable to think of the left’s opposition of religious freedom as a genuine phobia. They react instinctively long before they bother to think.
The bill, which has already passed the Arizona legislature and is now on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk, is being labeled as “Jim Crow for gays” or the “right to discriminate” bill by the gay lobby. Most media outlets are carrying that message for them.
Because when the gay lobby is involved, critical thought is not allowed. It’s offensive.
The bill, which has the National Football League threatening to move next year’s Super Bowl out of Arizona unless it is vetoed, is actually a fairly minor revision of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) already on the books.
RFRA states that if the government is going to take away someone’s First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, they have to have a compelling governmental interest in doing so and use the least restrictive means.
It is the highest standard of protection the constitution gives to fundamental rights.
The bill being protested doesn’t create the standard nor does it change it.
Instead, the bill says three things:
1) The legal protections offered by RFRA apply to associations and businesses as well as individuals. This was always the intent of RFRA, but the New Mexico Supreme Court, in upholding a $6,600 fine against a photographer who didn’t want to take pictures of a same-sex wedding, recently said that RFRA protections did not apply to a business.
2) The law protects your right to religious expression in the same way whether you’re being sued by an individual or by the government.
3) To claim religious freedom protections, you have to show an actual, sincere religious belief. You can’t invent the religion of drinking and driving in an attempt to get yourself out of trouble.
Opponents of the bill say they’re concerned that this is essentially “Jim Crow for gays” because they think it would allow a photographer or florist the freedom not to be part of a same-sex wedding if that is their preference.
But here’s the problem.
In Arizona, it isn’t illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. True story. Some states prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but Arizona doesn’t.
So now we’re really horrified.
Surely every gay person in Arizona has been relegated to subsistence living. After all, without laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the hordes of homophobic businesses owners must have fired all the gay people and refused to sell them Panini’s, right?
Actually that isn’t the case. I have been unable to find a single instance of a business refusing to do business with gay people because they’re gay.
In fact, since RFRA was passed in 1993 and adopted by many states, not a single person has used RFRA to defend racist business practices or discrimination against gay people in court.
In states like New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, where photographers, bakeries, and florists are in litigation because they don’t want to be part of a same-sex wedding, the businesses are happy to do business with gay people, (some even employed gay people) just not events like same-sex weddings.
Would a gay photographer be forced to do a wedding for the Westboro Baptists?
Rather than celebrate the fact that people are not using religious freedom as an excuse to be jerks, they want to take away religious freedom as a kind of pre-emptive strike against someone who might.
And people are cooperating. In the process, one of the most powerful political lobbies in America has convinced themselves and others that they are powerless.
Vladamir Putin thinks he’s Rosa Parks.
Those protesting this bill are likely concerned more with the underlying RFRA law than the relatively minor changes to it represented in this bill.
Arizona’s RFRA is modeled after a federal law by the same name that was passed by Congress in 1993. Seventeen states, in addition to Arizona, have also adopted state RFRA’s.
John McCain, the U.S. Senator from Arizona who recently called on Gov. Brewer to veto this bill, was actually one of 97 Senators and 425 Representatives who voted for the "Jim Crow" law they’re all scared of. Maybe he forgot. Or maybe he’s trying to pay for his sins.
But he wasn’t the only one.
So did Paul Wellstone, Diane Feinstein, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and many, many more. President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Sadly, we are forced to conclude that they are all homophobes. After all, the only reason one would support religious freedom is hatred of gay people, right?
Only twenty years ago, these proud leftists joined with the conservatives to pass RFRA almost unanimously.
How quickly things have changed.
In 1993, the left cared about individual rights. That’s what made them “liberals”. They didn’t think the government should be able to tell individuals not to do things simply because they didn’t personally agree with their choices.
Those were the good old days of live and let live.
The left has exchanged their commitment to individual rights for a commitment to "tolerance". They want to create a world in which no one does anything “offensive”, displays “bias” or engages in “discrimination.”
In the old world, individual rights were the solution. In the new world, individual rights are the problem.
After all, strong individual rights would give people the right to discriminate, which we simply can’t tolerate...because we want tolerance.
Of course that doesn’t make sense, but they have good intentions so it doesn’t matter.
As a result, a movement has been born that instinctively opposes anything that would give people the freedom to make choices they don’t like.
Don’t like abortion? Don’t get one. Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one.
Those were the good old days.
Don’t want to be part of a same-sex wedding? Do it anyway.
Otherwise I’ll sue you and/or harass you until I’ve closed down your business and destroyed your ability to make a living.
We call it progress. After all, allowing you the freedom to make choices we disagree with would be mean.
Update (2/26 at 5:02 pm): Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill that would have provided additional protection for religious freedom.
Your contribution of $5.00 or more helps us defend religious freedom here in Washington state.
by Joseph Backholm | February 21, 2014
Yesterday the Senate Health Care Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would make it professional misconduct for a licensed therapist to perform Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) therapy to help a minor reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction.
No vote was taken.
The hearing on this bill took up 50 minutes of the 2 hour committee hearing, which considered 6 other bills as well.
Before any public comment was made, Sen. Bruce Dammeier pointed out that there were no other examples of the legislature determining the standard of care for a profession. He noted that bloodletting, which is not the standard of care for medical doctors, is not prohibited in state law but by professional standards.
A representative of the Department of Health (DOH), which currently has jurisdiction over professional licensing and fields approximately 10,000 complaints a year involving professionals of all kinds, said that current DOH staff has 11 years of institutional knowledge and no one was aware of a single complaint alleging that a licensed therapist had attempted to coerce someone into not being gay.
During the hearing, others pointed out that complaints are not always filed when misconduct takes place, particularly when children are involved.
The testimony in support of the bill began with David Ward, an attorney from Legal Voice, ensuring the committee that the bill was legal. He pointed out that while bans from other states are subject to litigation, the laws have not yet been struck down. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban in California, taking the position that therapy is not speech and therefore not protected by the First Amendment. It has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
Lucy Homans, on behalf of the Washington State Psychological Association, testified that change efforts could never be referred to as therapeutic and that it assumes there is a disorder. She argued that the therapy results in trauma and the psychological after effects are “myriad and severe.”
Dr. Matthew Goldenberg, a licensed therapist who has a practice involving many gay and lesbian youth, said that therapy of this kind for one patient had caused alcoholism which resulted in jaundice, liver failure, heart disease, and tremors that prevented the patient from working.
Others told emotional stories of being rejected by their parents and community as minors when they announced that they were gay and the pain they experienced from others, including therapists, who made them feel as being gay was not acceptable and changeable.
Unlike a similar hearing in the House of Representatives, this hearing lacked specific stories about children being subjected to ice baths or shock treatment against their will.
Testimony in opposition to the bill included an ex-lesbian who said she always believed that change was impossible, despite wanting to change, because that’s what seven different therapists over two decades told her. She testified that her experience of change, and the experience of many others like her, makes it clear that, at least for some people, change is possible. She said that some people want to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction and asked the committee why people who might want to change should be denied the kind of help they desire.
Dr. Terry Trudel, a psychiatrist with 35 years of clinical experience, denied the allegation that SOCE assumes a disorder. He testified that the only thing sexual orientation change therapy assumes is that the person wants to change. He said people with same-sex attraction want to have choice about how they express themselves sexually and want to have people honor that choice. People who want to have sexual orientation change therapy want to have choices about how they will accomplish that.
David Pickup, a licensed therapist who owns two private practices that focuses on SOCE told his own experience of having unwanted same-sex attraction and getting therapy that helped reduce anxiety and depression and improve his self-esteem. He said the therapy he received and now provides in no way shames a client but focuses on creating a desired emotional change that that can ultimately lead to a behavioral change.
Pickup noted that the American Psychological Associations 2009 Task Force Report used by opponents of the bill to condemn SOCE says on page 42 and pages 82-83 that there is no proof that SOCE causes harm. He said that if the stories being told by others were true, that they should have their licenses revoked and in some cases be prosecuted, but that is not what SOCE therapists like him do.
Dr. Joe Fuiten, from Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell, testified that his church employs licensed therapists in their church counseling center, some of whom are pastors. He questioned whether the separation of church and state should allow the state legislature to tell pastors of his church, who happen to be licensed therapists, what they cannot share a perspective consistent with thousands of years of church teaching.
You can watch the entire testimony below.
The committee now has until February 28th to take action on this bill. If they pass the bill out of the committee, it would then move to the full Senate for consideration. If a majority of the committee votes against the bill, or if the bill is never brought up for a vote, then the bill is likely dead.
Though in the legislature nothing is permanent until everyone goes home.
You are encouraged to contact your legislators about this issue through the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or you can email them by clicking here.
You can contact the members of the Senate Health Care Committee directly through the information below.
Becker, Randi (R) Chair, (360) 786-7602
Dammeier, Bruce (R) Vice Chair, (360) 786-7648
Pederson, Jamie (D) Ranking Minority Member (360) 786-7628
Angel, Jan (R), (360) 786-7650
Bailey, Barbara (R), (360) 786-7618
Cleveland, Annette (D), (360) 786-7696
Keiser, Karen (D), (360) 786-7664
Parlette, Linda Evans (R), (360) 786-7622
by Joseph Backholm | February 20, 2014
Today there is a hearing in the Senate Health Care Committee on HB 2451 which would ban sexual orientation change therapy for minors. The bill makes it professional misconduct for a licensed professional help a minor reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. Even if the client requests the therapy. Even if the therapy is being done by a pastor inside a church.
The truth is, even the people supporting this bill wouldn’t support it if it were about anything other than homosexuality.
It violates so many of their first principles.
They used to say with such conviction that the government shouldn’t get between a girl and her doctor. But in this case they feel compelled to protect the girl from some doctor. After all, what if the doctor gives the girl advice we don’t like. Someone must be there to protect her.
They used scream from the rooftops about the need for a clear wall of separation between church and state. It protects the state from the church and the church from the state, right? Turns out that wall of separation may be evolving into more of a gate that locks on one side. Of course they have the key.
I’m sure Thomas Jefferson said something about a gate once too. And when he did, he almost certainly was thinking about the need for future benevolent governments to protect children from their parents, their therapists, and the church. The wall of separation was only going to work for so long. So much good to do and so little time.
Remember when they were telling florists that it’s illegal to deny gay customers services they wouldn’t be requesting if they weren't gay; things like floral services for a same-sex wedding. I think they called it discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. What? They’re still saying that?
Turns out they aren’t always opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In fact, it appears that they like it quite a lot so long as it will prevent gay kids from getting services that they don’t think gay kids should want.
Just less than a year ago, the city of New York made it illegal to sell soda and other sweetened drinks in quantities larger than 16 oz. They banned it because it’s bad for you.
You’ll recall that the public was outraged. Mayor Bloomberg was accused of meddling in issues that shouldn’t be his concern because he was meddling in issues that shouldn’t be his concern. Since then a New York appeals court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional now the high court in New York will rule.
But is it really that much different to ban certain kinds of therapy that some people want because you’re convinced that it’s bad for them? Or maybe they’ll revise the proposal to stop parents from buying soda for their kids. That should go well.
Of course this bill is motivated by good intentions. If you accept their premise that reducing or eliminating same-sex attraction is impossible, it makes some sense. Don’t punish the left-handed kids for being left-handed, right?
But that analogy falls apart in light of all the people walking around whose lives have changed in this way.
This bill is fundamentally about the right of self-determination. Should an individual be able to determine for themselves the kind of person they want to be. Should an individual be able to decide that they want to make choices consistent with a certain value system, regardless of how they feel at the moment? Should they be able to seek professional help in doing so?
Can I get an Amen from all the wives whose husbands are dealing with sex addictions?
We all know the answer to that question if we’re talking about any other subject. But in this case, I guess it’s different.
Why make sense when you care so much?
To share your thoughts on this bill you can contact your legislators through the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.
by Joseph Backholm | February 14, 2014
Yesterday the Washington State House of Representatives delivered a blow to religious freedom when it passed HB 2451 which bans therapy for minors to help them reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. The bill, which passed 94-4, now moves to the Senate for consideration.
This bill, modeled after similar bills in New Jersey and California, makes it professional misconduct for a licensed therapist to provide sexual orientation change therapy to minors even when the client requests it. Therefore, it makes it illegal for a licensed counselor to counsel in a way that is consistent with the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or LDS understanding of sexuality...even in a church, mosque, or synagogue.
As a result, a minor with unwanted same-sex attraction will be prohibited by law from getting professional help.
It was expected that the bill would pass the Democrat controlled House of Representatives, but the final vote was surprising because of the amount of support it received. Thought to be highly controversial, the bill received nearly unanimous support even from House Republicans who, though often powerless to stop bad policy in the House, typically oppose attempts by the left to censor speech, restrict religious freedom, and interfere with family decisions.
However, this bill presented unique political challenges.
Proponents of the bill told stories about children being subjected to shock therapy and ice baths against their will. While that kind of aversive therapy is broadly condemned, there is little to no evidence that such therapy is done commonly if at all. The Washington State Department of Health said they have received no complaints about therapists performing coercive sexual orientation change therapy of any kind--much less ice baths and shock therapy--against the will of a client.
Nevertheless, rather than simply ban shock treatments and ice baths, this bill makes it illegal for licensed therapists to perform talk therapy as well, even if the client requests it.
The broad support for the bill could be attributable to the potential political liability of opposing it. One can easily imagine messages like, “Representative X voted against a bill that would protect children from being thrown into ice baths! Representative X supports child abuse!?!?”
Deceptive, negative campaign messages aren’t exactly new inventions in political campaigns.
This bill raises a dilemma every politician faces: “What kind of compromises am I willing to make if not compromising could mean I lose my ability to do any good at all?”
For the voter, this vote raises a different question: “If I can’t count on you to vote against bills that violate core principles of religious freedom, what can I count on you for?”
No one has bad intentions. But the view can look very different depending on where your seat is.
The bill was amended and improved to a degree, but even after the amendments, the bill’s primary purpose--to prohibit counselors from being able to communicate a particular perspective on same-sex attraction--remained intact.
While the vote allowed the bill to pass the House of Representatives, the strong support for the bill in the House increased its chances of success in the Senate.
The Washington State Senate is comprised of a bi-partisan Majority Coalition Caucus of 23 Republicans and 2 Democrats that has formed around budgetary issues. The coalition does not necessarily agree on social policy. Therefore, in order to remain united they have agreed not to take up controversial social issues.
However, when a bill comes out of the House with the appearance of broad support, it could embolden more leftist members of the Majority Coalition to join with leftist Democrats to pass the bill. After all, if it passed the House 94-4, how controversial can it really be?
It could pass with a strong majority of the Senate as well for fear of campaign mailers accusing Senators of supporting child abuse.
Welcome to the sausage factory.
That being said, the debate over this bill is far from over. It was always expected that the bill would pass the House so the debate will really heat up in the Senate.
Your involvement now is more important than ever!
A hearing has been scheduled for 10 am on Thursday, February 20th in the John A. Cherberg Building. Be there!
Child abuse is not ok. If that is happening, everyone wants to stop it. Coercion by licensed counselors is already professional misconduct. If that is happening, there is already a way to address it. File a complaint with the licensing authority.
This bill denies patients the rights to seek the kind of counseling they want simply because the legislature doesn’t think they should want it. Why is that fair?
You can call your legislators about HB 2451 or any other issue through the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.
Your involvement is critical. By attending hearings, contacting your legislators, and encouraging your friends to do the same, we all can help make sure that good policy also makes for good politics.
by Joseph Backholm | February 11, 2014
In the next two days, the Washington State House of Representatives is likely to vote on HB 2451, a bill to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) involving minors. It would make it professional misconduct for a licensed therapist to provide counseling for the purposes of reducing or eliminating same-sex attraction.
Proponents of the bill say it is necessary to prevent therapists from forcing children to watch pornography while in an ice bath. But it goes far beyond that to make it illegal for a licensed counselor to even talk about changing sexual orientation except to say change is neither possible nor desirable. Never mind the fact that many people have.
You might be inclined to dismiss this issue completely because you are not a therapist and you have no experience with same-sex attraction.
But this bill is more than simply overregulation of the counseling profession, it is another example of lawmakers convincing themselves that they possess all relevant information in the universe about a subject so there is no longer room for disagreement. Ironically, in this case, they would be claiming to possess this knowledge about something they couldn’t possibly know anything about-the sexual development of an individual child.
This is something every liberty loving American should be concerned about.
Here are a few reasons to be concerned about the policy this bill creates:
1. Licensed therapists are not currently involved in coercive therapy to change sexual orientation: The Washington State Department of Health has no records of complaints filed against a licensed therapist for coercive therapy intended to change their sexual orientation. If anyone is receiving counseling to change their sexual orientation from a therapist, it is probably because they asked for it. Why would that bother you?
2. Bans “aversive therapy” as well as talk therapy:Proponents of this bill claim it is necessary to prevent children from receiving shock therapy or forced to take ice baths as a form of therapy. However, it goes far beyond those issues upon which there is general agreement to make it illegal for a licensed therapist to provide talk therapy to a client regarding unwanted same-sex attraction.
3. Coercion is already professional misconduct: This bill is unnecessary because it is already professional misconduct for a therapist to dictate therapeutic goals to the client. Current professional guidelines provide a recourse if a licensed therapist tries to force a client to change their sexual orientation.
4. Denies counseling options to those with unwanted same-sex attraction: Since coercion is already professional misconduct, the only real impact of this bill is to make it impossible for clients to get therapy to help with unwanted same-sex attraction. Telling a client there is no help for something they want help with can be just as damaging as forcing someone to get help for something they don’t want help with.
5. Places legislature in the middle of counseling sessions: Parents, counselors, and clients are in a much better position than the legislature to know what a child needs.
6. Creates inconsistent policy: If this bill were to pass, it would be ok for a minor to seek professional help to change their gender but not to change sexual attraction.
No one thinks children should be forced to take ice baths and watch pornography. If that is the concern, there are ways to deal with that that don’t include banning speech legislators personally disagree with.
Homosexuality specifically, and human sexuality generally, will always be controversial subjects. Human understanding of these topics has changed over the generations and is likely to change in the future.
Taking away the freedom of other people to express contrary perspectives about a highly politicized topic because we’ve decided we know all there is to know is neither enlightened nor progressive.
When you oppose legislation like this, you aren’t simply defending consumer choices for clients and conscience rights for therapists, you’re defending liberty generally.
To share your thoughts with the legislature about this bill, you can contact them through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.
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