California bans 'conversion' and 'reparative' therapies

Samuel, a teenager, wanting his parents’ approval and love, told them that a miracle occurred, and he was cured, that he was no longer gay. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2012 ― On September 29, California’s legislature passed a law which will take affect on January 1, 2013. The law prohibits licensed therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists from practicing “conversion” or “reparative” therapy on teenagers (anyone under age 18). These therapies, attempts to change the sexual orientation of a person from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual, according to California Governor Jerry Brown “have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

The bill also contains a requirement that adults who submit to such “therapy” sign a release saying they know what they are doing.

Samuel Briton, a senior high school student in Perry Iowa, discovered he was gay last year. His father, a Southern Baptist missionary, physically beat him several times, sending Samuel to the local emergency room.

Not willing to accept that their son could not be “changed,” Mr. and Mrs. Briton forced him to undergo conversion therapy. Treatment included telling him that the government had killed all of the gays, and that if Samuel were discovered, the government would kill him too. When this therapy failed, the Britons forced him into another program which included tying his hands to ice blocks and simultaneously showing him photographs of men holding hands. 

Samuel says this treatment was effective, resulting in him not being willing to touch another man, including his father. Thereafter Samuel’s hands were tied to heat coils. When photographs of men holding hands with men were shown, the coil temperatures were increased to cause him severe pain. When photographs of men holding hands with women were shown, there was no heat applied to the coils. Finally, tiny needles were stuck into his fingers, and he was given repeated electric shocks.

Samuel considered suicide. His mother intervened and told him if he would change, they would love him again.

Samuel, a teenager, wanted his parents’ approval and love. So he told them that a miracle occurred, and he was cured, that he was no longer gay. They accepted him and nothing further was said about it in the Brinton home.

Samuel went to college and decided to “come out” again to his parents. This resulted in ex-communication by his family, a warning not to contact his younger brother, and finding all of his belongings on the front step of the family home with the door locked.

Well-meaning and misguided people need to accept the reality of life. Homosexuality is not a disease nor an illness that can be cured. 

The American Psychological Association defines conversion and reparative therapy as based upon “the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient can change his or her sexual homosexual orientation.”

Dr. Aron Janssen, clinical director of the Gender and Sexuality Service at NYU Child Studies Center indicates that when these therapies are aimed at children or teens (who cannot consent), negative outcomes including reduced self-esteem, depression and depressive behavior, and identity consolidation result.

It is hard to believe that a law like California’s is needed in our country in this day and age, but apparently it is needed. The Brintons are proof of that. Apparently there are people who want to impose their myopic beliefs on children, and such behavior should be illegal.

As might have been expected, when a “controversial” law is passed, lawsuits are filed. Two Federal lawsuits have been filed seeking to declare the “pray gay away” law unconstitutional. 

The first suit, by a Christian legal group, Liberty Counsel, alleges civil rights violations, naming as plaintiffs two Southern California boys, ages 14 and 15, who have been undergoing reparative therapy with Encino psychologist Joseph Nicolosi. The boys’ parents also are named as plaintiffs, along with Nicolosi, two other Southern California therapists, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Nicolosi is considered famous in the circle of reparative therapy practitioners. He uses pornography in his therapy to treat what he considers the “sinful condition” of homosexuality.

The second suit, by another conservative group, the Pacific Justice Institute, is on behalf of a psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Duk, and a marriage and family therapist who is also a church pastor in San Diego. They claim, with the other plaintiffs in the suit, that they (the plaintiffs) generally agree that while 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. Nonetheless, their lawsuit references Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) multiple times.

This second suit states:

“The statute materially interferes with the plaintiff mental health professionals’ exercise of their independent professional judgment in providing treatment to minors who have unwanted same sex behaviors or attractions. As such, the statute requires the plaintiff mental health professionals to discriminate against minors who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning youth. This is in violation of these plaintiff mental health professionals’ obligations under the rules of professional ethics to provide treatment to persons regardless of their sexual orientation.”

This is a legal column. Pardon me if I delay a bit before I provide the legal analysis of the pending lawsuits and ask: Do these folks truly believe what they are saying? Really! In 2012! Haven’t we arrived at some really basic understandings about ourselves yet? Aren’t all races of people equal? Shouldn’t women vote?

Fundamentalist religious groups have argued that banning this therapy would hinder parents’ right to provide psychological care for children experiencing gender confusion.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said his organization plans to argue in court that the law infringes on the First Amendment and equal protection rights of individuals to give and receive information that matches their personal and professional beliefs.

If this argument prevails, it would mean that the First Amendment would protect therapists and psychiatrists from medical malpractice and psychological abuse claims simply because they use speech in practicing their medicine. That’s quite a view of the First Amendment.

The legal theory of these suits is the First Amendment. The basic claim is that the law would impede the therapists’ free speech rights, along with patients’ rights to get access to information.

That argument is exactly like the free-speech arguments that are raised with regard to abortion laws. When a law limits a fundamental right, such as what a person can and cannot say, it must have a compelling reason to do so.

This California law provides that compelling reason, “spot on.”

Part of the law stipulates: California has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors … and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.

Unfortunately, the law only applies to licensed therapists, not ministers or lay people who counsel teens to resist same-sex attractions.

Gay rights groups are making plans to encourage other states to join California in banning psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight. Two New Jersey lawmakers are currently drafting similar legislation.

Change my favorite baseball team. Change my political leanings. Change my view on artwork. Educate me on my erroneous opinions. My sexual orientation cannot be changed. Thank you, California, for once again being first to put into law what should not be needed, but will now protect the likes of Samuel Brinton from “professionals.”

Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.  Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, on the Andy Parks show, on Wednesdays at 5:15 P.M., and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.

His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.






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Paul Samakow

Attorney Paul Samakow brings his legal expertise to the headlines from life and real-life experience to The Washington Times Communties. A native Washingtonian, Samakow has been a Plaintiff’s trial lawyer since 1980, with offices in Maryland and Virginia. 

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