The people against banning ‘gay conversion therapy’ in Pennsylvania

Earlier this month, we told you about legislation being introduced in Pennsylvania which would ban ‘gay conversion therapy.’ The bills, introduced in the Senate by Anthony Hardy Williams (D-Phila) and in the House by Brian Sims (D-Phila), would seek to ban a controversial therapeutic program in which psychiatrists attempt to make kids who might be gay, not. Such practices, it’s been reported elsewhere, often involve harsh abuse of the young patient, something which was noted when Williams and Sims held a press conference earlier this month.

It’s already been banned in California and New Jersey, and Sims says he believes the current legislature could pass bills which would get rid of the pseudo-scientific, behavior-modifying practice which treats sexual orientation as a disease.

And conversion therapy believers have been suffering as of late. Not just because homosexuality hasn’t been labeled a disease by the American Psychological Association since 1973. Not just because an APA report from 2009 claims it doesn’t work and could harm the patient. But because even the most staunch advocates of so-called reparative therapy have abandoned hope in the practice.

Given the strides the LGBT community has made in recent years, staunch opposition to their progress can often be ignored. But it’s there. And opposition to a ban on reparative therapy in Pennsylvania, which may seem like one of the most obvious decisions a state could make, was recently discussed on a statewide radio program.

Specifically: a recent episode of American Family Focus on PA Issues, in which American Family Association of Pennsylvania president Diane Gramley and Liberty Counsel attorney Daniel Schmidt talk about the ramifications of that issue.

Both Schmidt and Gramley agree that reparative therapy is a good thing and banning it could spell trouble for basic constitutional rights in Pennsylvania, and nationwide. “[It's an] unprecedented intrusion [on] the rights of counselors and their rights to provide therapy that is effective for children and benefits them,” notes Schmidt in the interview. He additionally notes the bans are an “intrusion into rights of parents and rights of minors’ religious beliefs.”

The government, it’s argued, believes it knows better than parents and doctors to make decisions for their children. And that’s a problem.

It’s important to know these are unwanted same-sex attractions that the child has, Schmidt says, adding that those attractions may arise from trauma and abuse and, therefore, ban the idea that psychological treatment is based upon: That the client has the right to self-determination.

“I think we know what’s behind [the bills],” says Schmidt. “An ideological opposition to any religious belief that homosexuality is not a normal variant of human sexuality.”

When California and New Jersey banned the therapies, they trampled on the first amendment and 14th amendment, says Schmidt. The Liberty Counsel has, therefore, a petition for a rehearing before the 9th Circuit court, which upheld California’s ban on gay conversion therapy.

And they’ve received what Schmidt calls “good news.” The circuit has said the other side needs to respond to their request and say why they shouldn’t rehear the case.

“We can’t trust them to make the right decision when it comes to family matters,” says Gramley in response to that news.

Liberty Counsel also filed a lawsuit in New Jersey, and will be in federal court in Trenton tomorrow to attempt to shut the law down.

“If they continue to prevail on this, the next step will be to go after the religious beliefs,” Schmidt says.

Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso

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