California and New Jersey’s new laws banning talk therapy to address same-sex attraction in minors violate the rights of parents and children to seek counseling that conforms to their values. They also endanger First Amendment rights.
The governors of California and New Jersey have recently signed bills into law that violate First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. These new laws ban licensed counselors from engaging in talk therapies that reduce the level of same-sex attractions in minors for whom such reduction is a personal goal. Strikingly, these bills apply to all minors except those who wish to change their sex (“gender identity”) altogether, via hormones and surgery. Legislators in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania are pushing for similar talk-therapy bans. Such legislation usurps the rights of parents and children to seek counseling that conforms to their values. They are also based on faulty premises.
When signing these bills, Governor Jerry Brown dismissed sexual orientation modification as “quackery,” and Governor Chris Christie said that “people are born gay.” Both these statements ignore empirical evidence that, for many teenagers, sexual orientation is unstable and malleable. The most comprehensive study of sexuality to date, the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, found that, without any intervention whatsoever, three out of four boys who think they are gay at sixteen don’t think they are gay by the age of twenty-five.
The University of North Carolina’s National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health surveyed 10,000 teenagers and found that the vast majority of sixteen-year olds who reported only same-sex sexual attractions reported only opposite-sex sexual attractions one year later.* Because these surveys produced such unexpected results, similar studies were soon replicated all over the Western world. The outcomes were almost identical, with population-based samples now reaching into the hundreds of thousands.