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Minority voices

Testimony from opponents to California’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban

Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills speaks in opposition to AB 2943 outside the California Capitol. Associated Press/Photo by Sophia Bollag

Minority voices

The cover story in WORLD’s June 30, 2018 issue shows how a bill to ban “conversion therapy” (sometimes called “reparative therapy”) in California, even for consenting adults, is in a pipeline to passage. Since press coverage has been biased in favor of the bill, here are a few voices of opposition from testimony before the California Assembly’s Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee.

David Pickup, licensed therapist

(Warning: Some material in this testimony may be unsuitable for younger readers.)

Almost all my clients are receiving therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions caused by emotional and/or sexual abuse in childhood and beyond. … I am greatly saddened today, because this bill says that my clients don’t exist. This bill says that I don’t exist. This bill says what I do is fraud and doesn’t work.

And worse, this bill and the witnesses you heard just a few minutes ago intimate or actually claim that we use electro-shock and shaming therapies, which is not only offensive, it’s ludicrous at best. If you notice, they didn’t give you any names of these people who supposedly created these horrors. I would ask, respectfully, the committee to ask for people so we can get rid of those licensed therapists (if they exist) and take away their licenses or throw them into jail for doing such horrible things.

Authentic reparative therapy helped save my life. I’m a heterosexual man, but at 5 years old, I was playing “hide and seek” with neighbors when I was drawn into a tent by a young man who turned out to be a pedophile. … These experiences were only one of the abuses that led to homosexual feelings, and as an adult, when I entered into professional therapy, my homosexual feelings disappeared over a period of years and my sexual feelings for women greatly increased due to licensed psychotherapy. I … resolved the root causes of these feelings, which is the case for every single real client who identifies with this therapy. This is not inborn for these folks.

In California, there are hundreds of men who have faced the same basic issues and experienced actual emotional change—not just behavioral change. Every single client who comes into my office feels and believes that their homosexuality was not genetic.

I’m also deeply offended, with all due respect, because the authors of this bill and their witnesses have never contacted real reparative therapists or their clients to ask how therapeutic change works and to at least know what this bill is trying to make illegal.

Why haven’t they done that?

Pickup concluded that if Assembly Bill 2943 becomes law, “Our clients who report change in sexual feelings, report dissipation of depression (and) anxiety, report feeling wonderful because their authentic selves have arisen through therapy … will no doubt experience more depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. … The intolerance presented here by taking away people’s rights for therapy will destroy their lives. Everyone here in opposition respects, very much respects, LGBT persons for having the right to believe and live authentically. This bill robs all the rest of us of the same respect.”

Anne Paulk, head of Restored Hope Network

It’s not the entire community, but there are some people who are troubled by their same sex attraction and surrounded by a sea of witnesses that say, “You must embrace this.” They feel despondent and suicidal. I’ve had three such individuals recently come to me saying, “You gave us the first hope in a long time.” And it’s a hope that I personally experienced because of dealing with my own unwanted same-sex attraction. … I perhaps would have committed suicide. … I was very troubled by what I was doing and everybody around me was affirming it.

Joseph Nicolosi Jr., licensed therapist testifying on behalf of the National Task Force for Therapy Equality

For the past nine years, I have offered therapy to countless individuals who are seeking therapeutic help to find answers to questions over same sex attraction and gender identity confusion. My practice was founded by my father who helped thousands of people over the 40-year span of his career.

In our work, the client is in the driver’s seat. He sets his own goals, which the therapist helps him achieve. We use evidence-based treatment interventions—the same methods used by other clinics throughout the world to treat trauma and sexual addiction. As those underlying dynamics are resolved, the client’s unwanted same-sex feelings often diminish as a result. But AB 2943 threatens the ability of my clients to continue to seek and obtain the help they want through its ban on the vaguely defined “practice of sexual orientation change efforts” or “conversion therapy.” The bill would potentially jeopardize the well-respected and scientifically sound treatments that myself and many licensed professionals have been offering to willing adults for decades.

This bill arguably compels the therapist to violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by prohibiting a therapist from offering certain services to LGBT individuals that he offers to heterosexual clients. In this sense, the legislation demands discrimination based on sexual orientation. … I have a better solution. How about we let adults make their own decisions about what goals and objectives they want to pursue in therapy? The state has no business telling someone their therapy goals are illegal.

Three (of many) others

Licensed clinical psychologist Laura Haynes: “Several rigorous studies … have established that same-sex attraction, behavior, and identity—all three—change.”

Elizabeth Woning of Equipped to Love, from Redding, Calif.: “I’m a former lesbian and I oppose this bill for its infringement on countless women’s rights to speak openly and seek healing from life’s experiences.”

Ken Williams, also from Equipped to Love and self-identified as “formerly gay”: “I oppose this bill because my four children thank me that I did benefit from all the psychotherapy and resources.”

Testimony before the California Senate Judiciary Committee on June 12, 2018

For more than an hour, scores of persons queued up to state their opposition to AB 2943. They received time only to give their names, associations, and reasons for opposition. Many wore black T-shirts with white lettering proclaiming, “Changed.” Several sported stickers: “My Faith is NOT a Fraud” and “Change is Real.”

David Reese of Living Letters Ministries said, “I came out of homosexuality caused by molestation. I received counseling to change my sexuality, and I strongly oppose this legislation.”

Orange County resident Amy West said, “I escaped Vietnam for America because we have freedom of speech and religion.”

Others who testified offered comments such as, “I’m a former gay married to my wife 29 years and I strongly oppose this bill,” and “I was radically set free from the lesbian lifestyle and I urge you not to take away the choices, and the freedoms, and the rights of the lesbian and gay community.”

The June 12 hearing came on the second anniversary of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Diego, referred to the tragedy and said, “Hatred against our community and the desire to eradicate us unfortunately continues.” But two of the first witnesses opposing AB 2943 were Pulse survivors.

“It was a miracle that I’m alive,” said Angel Colon, shot six times at Pulse. “I found freedom in being able to choose my lifestyle.”

Luis Javier-Ruiz was shot multiple times during the massacre that left 49 dead. “I should have been number 50! … Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything, and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV. My struggles were real! The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ.”

For more insight into the possibilities of change, see the “And yet it moves” sidebar in WORLD’s new issue. Galileo in 1633, commanded not to say the Earth moves around the sun, may nevertheless have whispered in Italian, “e pur si muove”—and yet it moves. Almost four centuries later, California legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown are on the verge of commanding counselors never to say sexual orientation in some LGBT persons is fluid. But developmental psychologist Lisa Diamond’s highly regarded research could be summarized as: And yet it moves.

Sexual Fluidity, Diamond’s 2009 book published by Harvard University Press, won that year’s “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues Distinguished Book Award,” presented by the American Psychological Association. The Advocate, America’s oldest and largest LGBT publication, began one article in 2014, “A growing body of research indicates that for some people, sexual attractions change over time.”

WORLD’s article concludes, “California is a ‘pro-choice’ state on abortion, but one-party rulers are trying to eliminate choice in LGBT counseling. If gays or lesbians in California who want to change seek professional help, it appears they will soon have to head to back alleys. Government officials may decree that LGBT sexual orientation cannot change—and yet it moves.”

Jim Long

Jim is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD reporter.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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