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.