SCHILLING: Democratic Disdain For Conversion Therapy Is Really Disdain For The First Amendment

Terry Schilling Contributor
Font Size:

Among all the radical progressive causes which have captured the full religious zeal of leftist activists, perhaps none has been as legislatively successful as banning “conversion therapy.”

Driven into a frenzy by the fear of a nefarious Christian plot to shock LGBT people straight, Democratic lawmakers have been tripping over each other to prohibit this ill-defined practice. So far, 18 states and the District of Columbia, plus dozens more municipalities, have reportedly enacted such bans, and the establishment media have continued to ramp up the urgency and demand action.

Given the apparent success of this movement, it likely came as a surprise to many when the progressive-dominated New York City Council announced this month it was moving to repeal its prohibition on “conversion therapy,” one of the most expansive bans in the nation. What could possibly cause the city to take such a drastic step?

In truth, it was an admission of just how radical the campaign against “conversion therapy” is — and the very real threat these laws pose to our First Amendment rights.

The catalyst of this reversal was a lawsuit filed against the city by Alliance Defending Freedom, brought on behalf of an Orthodox Jewish therapist who feared the law would endanger his ability to freely counsel his patients. His fear was well-founded. Bans on “conversion therapy” have generally defined the practice in very broad terms, going well beyond sexual orientation into the realm of “gender identity” and effectively outlawing all treatment for gender dysphoria except that which places subjective “gender identity” above biology.

While there is a great deal of evidence demonstrating that people can and do grow out of their dysphoria, measures like New York’s make it illegal to even discuss such a possibility.

Given the blatantly ideological and anti-constitutional aim of these laws, it’s no wonder the New York City Council was so eager to repeal its ban at the first sign of trouble. And while council members blamed the influx of new conservative judges confirmed under President Trump for forcing them to make the decision, the reality is that the egregious burden this law imposed on free speech made it nearly indefensible.

Of course, this isn’t the only time LGBT advocacy has brought progressives into conflict with the First Amendment either.

Last year in California, Democrats notoriously attempted to pass a bill barring any commercial transaction advertising “conversion therapy,” another extremely broad measure which critics alleged could have banned sales of the Bible.

In 2015, New York’s Commission on Human Rights approved guidelines which threatened to fine individuals up to $250,000 for referring to another person using incorrect pronouns. Since then, teachers in a number of states have also faced losing their jobs for committing this infraction.

And, lest we forget, the “Equality Act,” which was passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives this year, would essentially end religious freedom as we know it.

Unfortunately, Republicans up to now have provided little meaningful opposition to “conversion therapy” bans, contentedly allowing the left to set a ridiculous narrative that people like Vice President Mike Pence want to electroshock gay kids in church basements.

The reality of these bans is that they prevent people who are psychologically distressed from seeking the help they need to feel comfortable in their own bodies, instead force-feeding them ideological propaganda that they can magically morph into a different gender and live a fulfilling life, which all too often, sadly, fails to be true.

Moreover, as exemplified by the New York City Council’s decision, these laws are an overt challenge to Americans’ freedom of speech — and Democrats know it.

Conservatives, and indeed all Americans, cannot afford to allow these First Amendment challenges to go unchecked. We must oppose these monstrous efforts by the left loudly and forcefully.

Terry Schilling (@Schilling1776) is the executive director at American Principles Project, a conservative nonprofit dedicated to putting human dignity at the heart of public policy.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.