Online Extra: Wedding Bell Blues: 'Bring it on,' SB 1172 supporter says of lawsuits
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Two anti-gay groups have filed lawsuits against Senate Bill 1172, the ban on anti-gay therapy that Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law. The bill, which is the first of its kind in the country, prohibits state-licensed mental health professionals from attempting to engage in efforts to alter the sexual orientation of LGBT youth 18 years and younger.
One of SB 1172's sponsors was Gaylesta, an LGBT psychotherapy organization based in San Francisco.
In an interview Monday, October 15, Gaylesta board Co-President Deborah Cooper, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said her reaction to the lawsuits is "Bring it on."
"It's all good education," said Cooper, who identifies as queer. "They will not win."
She said people learning about how many sexual orientation change therapists work with minors would help the law's backers.
"It's professional bullying," Cooper said of the practice, which is also known as reparative therapy. "We know what bullying does to kids, and it's devastating to have an adult who's a professional say you're wrong, that something that's intrinsically you is wrong."
She said the new law, which goes into effect January 1, "is going to save lives."
One of the organizations fighting the ban is the Virginia-based Liberty Counsel, which filed suit October 4 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento.
Among the plaintiffs Liberty Counsel is representing is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, as well as two families.
"This law intrudes on a client's fundamental right of self-determination to seek counseling that aligns with his/her religious and moral values," Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said in a news release. "This law forces counselors to overrule the will of their clients who choose to prioritize their religious or moral values above unwanted same-sex sexual attraction."
In its complaint, Liberty Counsel includes Jack and Jane Doe 1, and their son John Doe 1, 15, as plaintiffs. The family is Roman Catholic, the filing says.
"John Doe 1 has struggled with undesired confusion over sexual orientation, which has manifested itself as same-sex attractions," according to the complaint.
Doe entered treatment and has been receiving sexual orientation change efforts therapy for a year and a half, the complaint says. He attests that the counseling "made him feel more secure in his male gender identity" and has "substantially decreased and dissipated his unwanted same-sex feelings while increasing his attractions for women," the records say.
A second family is also part of the lawsuit.
John Doe 2, 14, is the son of Muslim and Roman Catholic parents and partakes in both faiths, the complaint says. To address his "undesired confusion regarding sexual orientation," John Doe 2 and his parents sought counseling, according to the filing, and as a result, they've "become closer and exhibited a greater degree of family unity."
In the lawsuit, Liberty Counsel claims SB 1172 infringes upon the boys' rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution and their rights to free exercise of religion, among other concerns.
Liberty Counsel declined a request to interview the families.
State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who authored SB 1172, said in a statement responding to the lawsuit that "The view that the U.S. Constitution contains a 'right' to practice baseless and harmful medical therapies is itself legal quackery. Since the founding of this country, it has been understood that government has a duty to protect children from abuse."
Brown signed the bill into law September 29. Lieu's statement pointed to a September 11 letter from the state legislative counsel to Brown affirming the bill's constitutionality.
Pacific Justice Institute, another anti-gay group, filed its lawsuit October 1 in federal court in Sacramento. The organization is also seeking an injunction to prevent implementation of the law January 1.
In a news release, the Sacramento-based organization claims the law is "an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment, privacy, and parental rights."
Brad Dacus, the institute's president, stated, "This outrageous bill makes no exceptions for young victims of sexual abuse who are plagued with unwanted same-sex attraction, nor does it respect the consciences of mental health professionals who work in a church."
Equality California was another SB 1172 sponsor.
In a statement, EQCA board member and pro bono counsel David Codell said the lawsuits are "misguided and meritless."
SB 1172 "is groundbreaking in addressing the particular harms to minors posed by dangerous practices by licensed health care providers intended to change a child s sexual orientation or gender expression," Codell said. "Despite the advances that [the bill] represents, however, the new law fits squarely within a well-established set of laws designed to protect minors from harmful practices by licensed professionals."
The statement noted that Joseph Nicolosi is among the plaintiffs in the Liberty Counsel complaint, which says that Nicolosi has been treating both John Doe 1 and John Doe 2.
According to EQCA's statement, released jointly with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, another SB 1172 backer, Ryan Kendall is a former patient of Nicolosi's.
In 2010, Kendall testified about his experiences during the federal trial seeking to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages. He also spoke this summer before a state Assembly committee.
"In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family," Kendall is quoted as saying. "At the age of 16, I had lost everything. My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide."
Nicolosi wasn't available for comment Monday.
Olson to speak to Commonwealth Club
Theodore Olson, one of the attorneys who argued against Proposition 8 in the federal lawsuit Hollingsworth v. Perry (formerly known as Brown v. Perry and Schwarzenegger v. Perry) will discuss the case at 6 p.m., Thursday, October 18 at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market Street, second floor, in the blue room.
California voters passed the anti-gay Prop 8, which prohibits same-sex marriage, in November 2008. A federal judge based in San Francisco eventually ruled the ban unconstitutional, and a federal appeals court upheld that finding, but the measure's backers have appealed that ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce soon whether it will hear the case.
Olson, the solicitor general under the Bush administration during the period 2001 to 2004, will reflect on his experience challenging Prop 8 in federal court and talk about what lies ahead for advocates of marriage equality.
There will be a networking reception at 5:30. Tickets are $20 standard, $12 for members, and $7 for students with a valid ID. Seating in the first few rows is available at $45 standard and $30 for members.
Tickets may be purchased at (415) 597-6705 or through http://www.commonwealthclub.org.
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at email@example.com or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.