The Convoluted Legal Case for Reparative Therapy

If there is one thing that we learned from the Pacific Justice Institute's lawsuit against California Gov. Jerry Brown over a new law banning "ex-gay" therapy for minors, it is that these lawyers' legal case is as logic-challenged and convoluted as the industry they are poorly defending.
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If there is one thing that we learned from the Pacific Justice Institute's lawsuit against California Gov. Jerry Brown and anyone in his orbit remotely connected with a new law banning "ex-gay" therapy for minors, it is that these lawyers' legal case is as logic-challenged and convoluted as the industry they are poorly defending.

For example, they disingenuously write, "[W]hile the Plaintiffs generally agree that they practice reparative therapy in at least some senses of the words, they do not concede that they are 'seeking' to 'change' anyone's sexual orientation." That's some impressive judicial jujitsu, especially considering the fact that the same lawyers reference the term "sexual orientation change efforts" ("SOCE") multiple times in their legal brief, like when they write, "SB 1172 deprives parents of this right, and hinders them from fulfilling their responsibilities, by prohibiting mental health professionals from offering 'sexual orientation change efforts' to minors."

The second fascinating argument is made on behalf of Dr. Anthony Duk, who feigns concern for equal rights. According to the legal brief:

If a minor's objectives are to bring his or her sexual conduct and desires into conformity with the religious traditions, cultural norms, and moral standards of the minor, Dr. Duk can provide treatment so long as the minor is heterosexual ... Dr. Duk is therefore required to discriminate against minor patients for no other reason than their sexual orientation.

Of course, the real discrimination comes from the fact that such quackery is only offered to LGBT clients because such biased therapists consider homosexuality to be immoral. If the good doctor were genuinely concerned about equality, he would have long offered his services to turn heterosexuals into homosexuals. But as far as I can tell, that service is not on the menu.

Speaking of Dr. Duk, I have some serious questions about his practice. It appears from the lawsuit that he might support or participate in the barbaric practice of chemical castration to lower the sex drives of otherwise healthy LGBT people. This is what the lawsuit says:

In the event of a patient seeking to gain a stronger level of control over sexual behaviors, desires, and addictions such as pornography, treatment can include prescription drugs to help control sexual drive, sometimes referred to as libido, in addition to counseling ... However, under the statute in question, a minor who has unwanted same sex behaviors or attractions cannot be treated with either counseling or prescription medications.

It seems that reparative therapy is so impotent that clients must be drugged into impotence themselves for these quacks to claim success. I fully hope that lawyers vigorously cross-examine Dr. Duk over his possible abuse and unethical use of pharmaceuticals to lower the sex drives of his clients.

The lawsuit goes on to state, "SB 1172 purports to prevent minors, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth, from accessing mental health services and treatment designed to address self-perceived needs to alter sexual desires." Of course, these lawyers fail to point out that all medical and mental-health associations say that homosexuality is not a mental illness, so why would youth seek to heal themselves when they are not sick, or seek to get fixed when they are not broken? Maybe because these vulnerable and desperate LGBT youth were made to feel guilty, ashamed, and sexually broken by the reparative-therapy industry. Once they feel lower than dirt, they are easy prey for avaricious charlatans who offer to "help" but provide nothing but harm.

Perhaps the height of arrogance in the lawsuit comes when the Pacific Justice Institute writes, "The statute makes no attempt to define 'family rejection.'" What I suggest is that these vultures visit any number of shelters for LGBT homeless youth in Los Angeles. They can see firsthand the destitution of gay teenagers who are discarded by "loving" religious parents.

Furthermore, the lawsuit makes the critical mistake of conflating sexual abuse with sexual orientation. I have spoken to a number of scientists about this topic and feel confident that this argument will be obliterated in court. There is simply no cause and effect between abuse and orientation.

The lawsuit also says that S.B. 1172 "would directly curtail the religious expression of members of the clergy who are also mental health professionals." This is a load of nonsense, because reparative therapists claim that homosexuality is caused by sexual abuse or parental neglect. The bizarre cure involves clients forming nonsexual same-sex friendships, as well as behavioral modification, such as snapping a rubber band to cause a sting on the wrist when sexually tempted.

These scoundrels conveniently vacillate between quasireligion and pseudoresearch. But their outlandish theories are supported by neither scripture nor science, making it difficult to win on claims of religious discrimination or medical necessity. It seems that the legal case for reparative therapy is even weaker than the actual failed therapy itself.

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