Adam J. MacLeod
Adam J. MacLeod

I am no fan of Adam J. MacLeod but he proves on Friday the old saw about a broken clock being right twice daily. McLeod writes California’s New Sexual Orientation Bill Is Bad, but It Wouldn’t Ban Books. The piece appears at Witherspoon Institute’s blog and he is referring to the pending measure,  AB-2943 that effectively bans conversion therapy in California. MacLeod is a professor of law at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. It is about on par with Liberty U.

My agreement with MacLeod is short-lived.

Naturally, people of conscience are growing concerned that the ambitions of sexual-identity activists are totalizing, and that their political triumphs will leave no place in which to faithfully live out the convictions that human beings are male and female and that men and women are complementary. This bill heightens those concerns, with good reason. But critics of the bill unloaded a volley of fire that both missed the mark and besmirched their own credibility.

“Naturally?” Moreover, MacLeod is confusing people of conscience (which includes me and most readers) with religious conservatives. Beyond that MacLeod and his ilk are free to believe whatever they want. He is suggesting that AB-2943 affects religious beliefs. It does not.

Friends of ordered liberty pointed out a troubling implication of the California bill: It could burden speech on matters of civic importance and personal well-being. The legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom argued, “It targets a specific message—that an adult who is experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion can find help to address those issues—for censorship.” Laws that prohibit speech on the basis of its content are the most constitutionally suspect and often the least defensible.

Now it is “friends of ordered liberty” as a substitute for religious conservatives. What does that even mean? Alliance Defending Freedom is a hate group and Mr. MacLeod is ignoring circuit precedence. Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown were consolidated at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld California’s law banning child conversion therapy. The Supreme Court of the United States declined in May of 2017 to hear a further appeal. Amusingly there was one amicus brief before the Supreme Court. It was disjointed nuttiness from none other than Peter LaBarbera’s little hate group. It wasn’t terribly persuasive.

Later on:

There are other, stronger reasons to criticize the California bill. For example, it would subvert the autonomy of consensual patient-counselor relationships. We need not speculate that the bill will have that effect. It is designed to prevent counselors and mental-health professionals from providing some services to their patients.

Correct. But MacLeod is yet another religious conservative who seems to accept the notion that conversion therapy is safe and effective. Conversion therapy does not work and it has the potential to be toxic.

Significantly, unlike legislation in other states that purports to limit therapy bans to minors, the California bill contains no age limit. Thus, it seems both to infringe parental authority and to curtail the autonomy of adults to decide how they want to live. Nothing about this bill is pro-choice or pro-personhood.

Not really. The only adults who would consider conversion therapy have a religious conflict with their sexuality. They are free to join the Courage Ministry or to receive counseling from their pastor. If they want to invite shame heaped upon them and then if they want  to pretend to be straight they are free to do so as long as there isn’t an exchange of money for a service. I cannot imagine that anyone with gender dysphoria would seek religious counseling but there is always someone nutty enough to do just about anything.

Such blunt interference could be justified only if efforts to help people with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria were inherently wrong or always more harmful than beneficial. To examine the evidence is to see that those are contestable assumptions at best. Whatever one’s views about same-sex attraction and transgender identity, it should not be illegal to help someone who wants to lead a chaste life or to feel more comfortable in his or her body.

There are two cites in the above. One is to a polemic by Ryan T. Anderson, the music major who attained a doctorate in philosophy. The other is to an article on Witherspoon’s blog written by Paul R. McHugh. When McHugh (who is pushing 90) publishes to a respected peer-reviewed journal I might pay some attention. McHugh never will.

MacLeod effectively confirms what I have asserted. There is no evidence that conversion therapy works and is not harmful. After considerable analysis the American Psychological Association concluded in 2007:

The task force conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.

MacLeod sets the bar at “…always more harmful than beneficial?” When there is no proof of benefit, any risk is unacceptable.

This therapy won’t cure your cancer but you will be pleased to know that there is only a small chance that your dick will fall off as a result of it.”

Social conservatives have reason to be frustrated and concerned about the California bill and other manifestations of the sexual-identity culture. Political and cultural elites do not seem at all interested in rational discourse about what it means to be male and female, or why liberty is important, or what legal conditions make ordered liberty possible.

What is the “sexual-identity culture?” Who are these “elites?” Rational discourse starts with the science. Rational discourse involves an analysis of the evidence. Citing Ryan T. Anderson and Paul R. McHugh as experts is irrational. Doing so nullifies any interest to resolve competing narratives. “Gender confusion” does not exist in medical literature. It is a slur to convey disapproval of transgender individuals by religious conservatives. Using a slur does not depict someone who wants a rational discussion. The same is true of references to “same-sex attraction.” That implies that a sexual orientation disapproved of by Christians is comparable to drug abuse or alcoholism. That is not the foundation for a rational discussion. Begging the question with “what it means to be male and female” (not recognizing gender as a construct) is intellectually dishonest. Is that how one attracts rational discourse? I do not think so!

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.