Governor Jerry Brown is one of this country’s most notorious 1960’s liberals: Son of Democrat Governor Pat Brown, raised in San Francisco, Yale Law graduate, dated Linda Ronstadt, civil rights leader. His liberal bona fides will be put to the test when he makes the decision whether to sign AB 2943 into law.
AB 2943 seeks to ban so-called “conversion therapy” whereby, through psychological counseling, a person seeks to reduce or eliminate their homosexual feelings. In the bill, it is called “sexual orientation change efforts,” which is defined as “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.” It passed the Senate last week, is back in the Assembly for concurrence, and should be on Governor Brown’s desk for signature in a matter of days. California already bans the therapy for children under 18. It was the first state to ban it, and 13 states followed. This law would apply to all ages, and once again California will be the first.
Passing this law will mean that an adult no longer has the freedom to voluntarily choose to seek counseling for unwanted gay or trans feelings. Proponents say the therapy is a hoax. You are born gay or transgender and thus counseling cannot change anything. And even if it could, there is nothing wrong with being gay or trans, so you should not try to change it.
However, the truth is we do not yet know what causes homosexuality or gender dysphoria. Most experts believe it to be a combination of nature and nurture. (We know from studies of identical twins that when one is gay or trans more often the other is not.) The therapists who offer this type of counseling state that childhood trauma almost always plays a role in sexual preference and dysphoria. If this treatment works, California will have made illegal perhaps the one treatment that could best serve those with dysphoria, permitting them to avoid drugs and surgery.
Even if there was no clear evidence that the therapy works, why ban it? The therapy is voluntary. There is no law banning psychics, hypnotherapists, and acupuncturists whose services are highly questionable. If a married man with children is cheating on his wife with other men and wants to try to curtail that behavior, this law would prevent him from seeking such treatment. If that same man was cheating on his wife with women, he is permitted to seek counseling about that.
The bill is an obvious violation of personal freedom, including the freedoms of speech, religion, and privacy. Based upon the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision this year in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. California, which struck down another California law which tried to force faith-based groups offering pregnancy counseling to tell clients about abortion options, the law is clearly unconstitutional. The two laws are quite similar. California is trying to tell its citizens how to think. They want uniform agreement among its citizens that abortion is fine and so is being gay or transgender. The problem is that not everyone agrees with this, often for religious reasons, and that is a hallmark of a free society.
We are free people and we’re allowed to think, act, and speak as we wish. With laws like these, it is no wonder you rarely hear people use the old retort, “It’s a free country!” anymore. The Supreme Court went so far in its ruling to compare California to Nazi Germany! How has California gone from being the center of U.S. civil rights and liberalism to this? The Court wrote, “In Nazi Germany, the Third Reich systematically violated the separation between state ideology and medical discourse. German physicians were taught that they owed a higher duty to the ‘health of the Volk’ than to the health of individual patients.” The Court went on to say in critiquing California dictating permitted speech, “Professionals might have a host of good faith disagreements, both with each other and with the government, on many topics in their respective fields. Doctors and nurses might disagree about the ethics of assisted suicide or the benefits of medical marijuana; lawyers and marriage counselors might disagree about the prudence of prenuptial agreements or the wisdom of divorce; bankers and accountants might disagree about the amount of money that should be devoted to savings or the benefits of tax reform. ‘[T]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,’ Abrams v. the United States, 250 U. S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting).”
So, Governor Brown, what are you going to do? Are you going to prove you are a genuine social liberal and defender of individual freedom and veto the bill, or are you going to kowtow to political correctness and identity politics and sign it? Historians are watching.
Jim Breslo is a civil rights attorney and host of the Hidden Truth Show podcast.