8 Things to Know About the Legislature

Today is the first day of a new 105 day session. Those we elected will begin legislative hearings and ultimately will make hundreds of decisions that will affect our lives.

During the next 105 days, we hope you will take the time to introduce yourself to your legislators and let them know how you feel about the issues you care about. The squeaky wheel usually does get the grease. Be kind, polite, and respectful, but be squeaky. And get your friends to be squeaky too.

Whether you’re considering if you should get involved or wondering how, here are eight things to remember about dealing with the legislature.

1. In politics, might makes right: The ideas that win in the legislature aren’t necessarily the best ideas, but the ideas with the most political support. You may be able to prove that your position will save money and lives, but if those who disagree with you have more political influence, they’re probably going to win anyway. You don’t have to like it, but you should believe it. So the key to influencing policy decisions is to make sure that supporting good ideas is politically advantageous. That means bringing people with you.

2. Everyone has good intentions: No one goes to the legislature saying, “I will become a tool that interest groups use to accomplish their purposes at the expense of the public.” They may have bad ideas, and they may eventually regret some of their decisions, but in their own mind they are generally doing the right thing for the right reasons. So if you want to build a relationship with your elected officials and ultimately influence them, don’t begin your conversation by accusing them of willfully causing harm. Give their motives the benefit of the doubt in the same way you hope others will do that for you.

3. Yes, you can make a difference: By virtue of being in elected office, many legislators are inherently insecure. In most cases, state elected officials were elected by a few thousand votes and some by only a few hundred (or less). They know that upsetting a significant number of voters is a good way to lose an election. As a result, your ability to generate even 20 phone calls or emails in a single day on an issue can make a big impact. They know that voters who care enough to contact them about an issue will also be willing to cast a vote on that issue as well.

4. Legislators are people too: None of us has performed perfectly in our jobs. We all need encouragement and we are all subject to being worn down by constant criticism. Yes, when someone runs for office there is a lot they are volunteering for, but encouragement and kindness is universally appreciated. In your dealings with elected officials, kindness is not only the right thing to do, it’s also much more likely to be effective.

5. Quantity is better than quality: Because the best argument doesn’t always win, it is a better use of time to spend two hours convincing 5 or 10 other people who share your perspective to contact their legislators than to spend it writing an irrefutable treatise on why your position is the right position. Of course you want to make good arguments, but good arguments without public support often don’t make it very far. So when it comes to communication with legislators, think quantity more than quality.

6. Legislators aren’t experts on everything: Every year, thousands of bills are introduced and hundreds are voted on. But it simply isn’t possible for a legislator to be an expert on every issue or understand the details of each bill. For the most part, legislators specialize on a few issues and then take advice from those they trust. They don’t want to be ignorant any more than you want them to be ignorant, but they know better than to believe everything they hear. So build credibility and become the educator they need on the issues you care about.

7. Personal communication is better communication: Lots of people ask what the most effective way to communicate with a legislator is. Really, it’s probably not that different than the most effective way to communicate with you. If someone shows up at your home or office to personally share concerns with you, that will probably make more of an impact on you than if they send an email. In general, here’s the most effective ways to communicate with your elected officials:

  1. personal visit
  2. hand-written letter
  3. personal phone call
  4. personal email or hotline message
  5. form email

While more personal communication is more effective, it remains true that quantity is better than quality. One hundred phone calls means a lot more than one personal visit. But one hundred personal visits is much better than one hundred phone calls. So be personal, but make sure you get lots of other people to do the same.

8. 1-800-562-6000: If you want to vent on the go, use the legislative hotline number. Program it into your phone right now because it allows you to contact your legislators even if you don’t know who they are. When you call this number you’ll reach a legislative hotline operator who will tell you who represents you once you provide your address then deliver whatever message you want to the Governor, your State Senator, and both your State Representatives. It isn’t the best way to communicate with your legislators, but sometimes it’s the best you can do and it’s a lot better than doing nothing.

Thank you for being part of the team to create a culture in Washington that recognizes the significance and the sanctity of the family.

To learn more about about the legislature and how you can help make a difference, sign up for our weekly Olympia 101 classes that will be taking place in Olympia throughout the session.

2015 Session: Bills to Watch For

On Monday, a newly elected Washington State legislature will begin the new legislative session. The Washington State Senate continues to be controlled by a 26-23 Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) majority. Where last year, that majority was comprised of 24 Republicans and 2 Democrats, this year it is comprised of 25 Republicans and 1 Democrat.

The Washington State House has a 51-47 Democrat majority, a gain of four seats for the Republicans.

The primary task of each new legislative session is to pass a budget that will fund operations through 2017. Last month, Governor Jay Inslee proposed a budget that includes $1.4 billion in new taxes, including a new state capital gains tax. That proposal has already been met with some skepticism in the Senate.

But every session involves debates over non-budgetary matters. The influence of the abortion industry and the homosexual lobby is felt every year in Olympia. Thanks to the persistence of citizens like you and the courage of many legislators, their worst ideas have been stopped in the legislature for several years.

But here is a look at four issues we think could be debated in the legislature in the upcoming session.

Abortion Insurance Mandate: Senate Bill 5026 would require every private insurance company in Washington State to cover abortion. Every insurer already offers abortion, but under current law individuals and companies are free to purchase insurance that does not cover it if they prefer. This bill has been defeated in the Senate for the last three years.

Forcing Religious Hospitals to Perform Abortions: The abortion industry is increasingly concerned with the fact that Catholic hospitals are merging with public hospitals because Catholic hospitals are unwilling to perform abortions. Groups supportive of the abortion industry held a number of community events around the state over the summer and circulated a petition in support of legislation that would require religious hospitals to perform abortions in violation of their beliefs. We are not yet aware of specific legislation to address this issue but are preparing for it.

Payment for Webcam Abortions: This bill would facilitate payments from state sources for telemedicine, or medical consultations done remotely via computer. While this would be an efficiency in most cases, the abortion industry wants to be able to charge the state for prescribing chemical abortions remotely. They have used a similar strategy to increase their revenues in other states because it allows fewer medical staff to prescribe more abortions. Encouraging abortion providers to prescribe abortions remotely is especially problematic in Washington State where there is no requirement that parents know about a minor’s abortion. As a result, encouraging remote chemical abortions would create a situation in which minors are getting an abortion without their parent’s awareness and without any medical professionals nearby. In light of the fact that chemical abortions have killed women and frequently cause severe abdominal pain and bleeding, this would be a dangerous situation for the girls involved.

Banning Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) Therapy: In 2014, an effort was made to make it professional misconduct for a licensed therapist to help a minor reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attraction. The bill passed the House in 2014 but failed to pass the Senate. Proponents of the legislation claim that ice baths and shock therapy have been used in this therapy. Proponents have provided no evidence that it has happened recently—if ever—and it is widely condemned. It is also worth noting that imposing therapeutic goals on a client for any reason anyway is already professional misconduct. The real purpose of this legislation is to create legal liability for counselors who communicate the fact that it is possible for some people to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. Previous version of this bill would have regulated licensed therapists, even if they are pastors or employees of churches working inside the church, making it a threat to individual liberty, parental rights, as well as religious freedom and free speech.

There will undoubtedly be other issues to deal with as well and we will keep you informed of all the developments affecting marriage, life, religious freedom, and parental rights.

You are encouraged to contact your legislators through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 anytime you have a thoughts to share or questions to ask.

Save the number as “Olympia” so you can easily share your thoughts.

Remember, in the legislature, without your involvement good things can’t happen. It doesn’t matter who has the better idea, but who has the most people behind their idea.

If you want to influence the policy that is made, make sure good policy is also good politics.

Your contribution of $5 or more allows us to do what we do. Thank you for your support.

Webcam Abortion Bill Dies as Session Ends

The Washington State legislature adjourned late Thursday night.  The end of session also ended discussion on a controversial bill involving telemed or webcam abortions as well.

This bill (HB 1448), which would have facilitated payment for medical services done remotely, is generally seen as an advance in health care because it makes it easier for people who live in rural areas to access health care.  Many health services, particularly in mental health, do not require a physical examination of a patient.  The ability to consult with your doctor without the need to drive hundreds of miles would be an improvement.

Nevertheless, after passing unanimously through the State House of Representatives, Planned Parenthood testified in support of the bill in the Senate, alerting people to the fact that this bill may not be as innocent as it appears.

It turns out that Washington is not the first case to facilitate telemedicine.  In Iowa, the legislature passed a similar measure.  However, one of the unexpected results was that the abortion industry began taking advantage of the measure in ways that were harming women.

Drugs that cause chemical abortions were being prescribed by medical providers who were hundreds of miles away from their patients.  These drugs, which have caused death and frequently cause severe abdominal pain, were leaving women to deal with serious complications far from any medical care to help them deal with it.

In the end, the Iowa Department of Health examined the evidence and banned the use of telemedicine for abortion. For similar reasons, eleven state legislatures have passed legislation banning telemed abortions.

Planned Parenthood has sued the state of Iowa challenging the Board of Health decision.

The abortion industry generally is having an increasingly difficult time finding medical providers to perform their abortions.  Applying this technology to abortion would make it much more efficient to prescribe the drug and get the taxpayer reimbursement.  Fewer medical providers would need to be involved.

The problem with telemed abortions is particularly acute in a state like Washington that has no parental notification law.  It would have created a situation in which a 14 year-old girl could get a chemical abortion without her parent’s awareness hundreds of miles from the doctor who prescribed the drug.  Not only would her parents not know, but perhaps the only adult who does know would be unable to help with complications.

The Board of Health in Iowa Banned the use of telemed abortions because they heard from women who had driven hundreds of miles, while bleeding in their car, looking for help.

In the end, there was general agreement on the vast majority of this bill.  Typically, in situations like this, the bill would simply be amended to remove the small part of the bill on which there is disagreement so the rest can be advanced.

Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good, right?

But nothing involving the abortion industry is very typical.

Once the issue was raised, the abortion industry took the position that if telemedicine would not be available so they could prescribe chemical abortions to children from hundreds of miles away, it shouldn’t be available to those needing mental health services in remote parts of the state either.

It’s really unfortunate.

Still, whenever the abortion industry loses a chance to expand its business, it’s a good day.

And you made it happen.  And not just on this bill.

From the Abortion Insurance Mandate, to the ban on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, to telemed abortion, the thousands of times you reached out to legislators made all the difference.

Your voice is being heard and it is changing the debate in Olympia. Keep doing it.  And go recruit some friends.  There’s obviously a long ways to go.

March 14, 2014 Legislative Update Conference Call

Hosts: Joseph Backholm & Danille Turissini

Topics: 2014 Legislative Session Wrap-up, FPIW in the interim

Bad Bills Die

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.

A fuller list of concerns about the Abortion Insurance Mandate can be found here and here.

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.

Healthcare Choice Should Be Allowed to All Women

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.

“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.

Senate Committee Considers Ban on SOCE

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.

FPIW’s list of concerns about this bill can be found here, and here.

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

Why Make Sense When You Care So Much?

Today there is a hearing in the Senate Health Care Committee on H.B. 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.

House Passes Ban on Life Change Therapy 94-4

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.

Banning SOCE: Why You Should Care

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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