I want to be happy for the people of California. After disappointing us with the disgusting Prop 8 ban on marriage equality, it seems the Golden State is finally coming around. A ban on forcing LGBT kids to go through gay conversion therapy (sometimes called ex-gay therapy) just passed the State Senate.
Torturing kids with backward religious-based ideas parading as medical treatment may finally be a thing of the past. Or not. Isn't there a little thing called, ahem, freedom of religion in the United States?
Hold your applause, folks. We may have a problem.
I will admit right off the bat that I am no constitutional law expert. And I'm aware that many of the so-called "reparative" therapies used on gay minors can be led by members of the medical profession -- even though the practices have been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In that arena, the law should have power to step in.
But the gay conversion therapy ban, SB 1172, "would prohibit a mental health provider from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, as defined, with a patient under 18 years of age." It gets tricky when they start to define "mental health provider," because many clergy in this day and age have dual certification in the counseling field. You can tell a psychiatrist they can't do something.
But can you tell a pastor who happens to be a registered counselor that he can't? How do you draw the line between the two?
If you can, is there really any point to this law? It seems way too easy to skirt.
The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the group that buys into and peddles the pseudo-science behind the conversion therapies they claim can cure gays of their homosexuality, regularly partners with religious groups. They take it from the realm of medical quackery and push it under the much more nebulous umbrella of religious practices.
So here lies the conundrum. I agree with the APA. Ex-gay therapy is wrong, cruel, even dangerous in some instances. Not only is the pseudo-science behind it shoddy, but it is morally reprehensible to tell a child that the way they were born is a problem.
But as it stands right now in America, parents do have the power to make choices about their kids and religion. And there are a lot of good reasons to protect that basic right. I may have felt like Sunday school was cruel and inhumane when I was a teenager, but I certainly don't think my parents should be carted off to jail for it. Unfortunately, it's hard to parse out "good" church from "bad" church.
So taking your gay kid to your pastor for a "conversion" makes you a crappy parent, but if we want to protect parents' rights to all the other, much more appropriate religious practices in this country, this is going to be a tricky one to get rid of in the religious realm.
How would you feel if you were told your pastor couldn't talk to your kid about something you believe in?
Image via Guillaume Palmier/Flickr