Appeals Court Protects First Amendment Right Of Therapists To Torture LGBTQ Children
Back in June, the United Nations issued a report calling for nations around the world to ban conversion "therapy" for children, owing to the fact that being gay is not a disorder and the fact that the UN generally tends to look down on torturing children.
It is generally unethical for health-care professionals to purport to treat anything that is not a disorder, and they are compelled by the "do no harm" principle not to offer treatments that are recognized as ineffective or purport to achieve unattainable results. For those and other reasons, the Independent Forensic Expert Group of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, a group of preeminent international medicolegal specialists from 23 countries, has declared that offering "conversion therapy" is a form of deception, false advertising and fraud.
But this is America and apparently, it's totes legal to torture children here so long as you claim that it is their religion to be tortured.
In a 2-1 decision today, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals voided bans on conversion therapy in Boca Raton and South Beach County in Florida on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment. The two votes for were appointed by Trump, with the dissenting vote appointed by Obama, so that's ... not at all surprising.
The bans did not apply to adults making an adult decision to de-gay themselves for whatever reason, but rather to children who were being sent to conversion therapy by parents who don't want them to be gay or bi or trans. Those making the initial complaint were two therapists who claimed that their clients — their underage clients — had "sincerely held religious beliefs conflicting with homosexuality," and that therefore they should be allowed to continue abusing said clients by trying to scare them straight, a thing it is not scientifically possible to do.
Surely, if it is a sincerely held religious belief and it is truly their decision, they can wait until they are 18 to make that decision for themselves.
The fact is, children are not generally allowed to make decisions for themselves when it comes to things that are potentially harmful. For instance, an adult Jehovah's Witness can refuse a blood transfusion for themselves. In a life or death situation, a child cannot, not without a court order. This is at least partially because we understand that we shouldn't put that kind of a decision on a child who could suffer consequences at home should they have to decide on their own that they want to live and get a blood transfusion instead of die without one. Not allowing the child to make that choice in the first place alleviates a whole lot of tension.
It's the same thing with conversion therapy. There is almost never going to be a situation where the parents are fine with their kid being gay and the kid is like, "Nah, I think I'll undergo some pseudoscientific therapy so I can be a heterosexual, just like how Jesus wants!" It is way more likely that these kids will be pressured by their parents or worse. Taking the decision out of everyone's hands until the child is 18 is the kindest thing for everyone involved.
There are lots of decisions where our "First Amendment" rights are curtailed in medical settings. For instance, were I to get an abortion in many states, the doctor would be legally required to lie to me about several things, whether or not they wanted to and whether or not it violated my sincerely held religious beliefs to hear them. Heck, if I were living in Tennessee the doctor would be required to tell me that my medication abortion could be "reversed," a thing that is just as scientifically impossible as changing someone's sexual preference.
Those things are actual First Amendment violations.
The state has a compelling interest to protect children. If a parent were discovered to be psychologically abusing their child, child services could come and take that child away. It shouldn't be any different if you are a therapist and you think the kid is "asking for it."
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse