THERAPISTS GET FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS CLIPPED
Sex therapy just got a bit trickier for counselors in Anchorage. There are lines that can’t be crossed. They are lines that are hard to define. Yet they come with big penalties if they are not obeyed.
An ordinance that prohibits licensed counselors and therapists from helping youth deal with their gender confusion or homosexuality issues passed the Anchorage Assembly on Wednesday, on a vote of 9-2.
Only Assembly members Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy voted against it.
The vote to strike down the free speech rights of Anchorage counselors and therapists came late in the night on Wednesday, after hours of testimony from both sides of the controversy.
Gay testifiers said they don’t think “conversion therapy” is beneficial to those under the age of 18 and is actually harmful.
Opponents of the ordinance said that it is an infringement on the rights of counselors and parents, and also harms youth who are trying to come to terms with their homosexual interests, experiences, or explorations.
All of the testimony came via telephone, as Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has forbidden people from entering the Assembly Chambers at the Loussac Library, where the Assembly has been meeting illegally for the month of August, in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
The ban includes school counselors, but not athletic coaches or members of the clergy — but only when they are acting in the capacity of a religious adviser. If they are acting in the capacity of a mental health professional, they are prohibited from these delicate conversations with youth.
Also prohibited from having these conversations with youth are physicians or assistants, osteopaths or assistants, registered or practical nurses or assistive personnel, certified nurse aides, physical or occupational therapists or assistants, psychologists or psychological associates, social workers or associates, licensed professional conservators or guardians, naturopaths, or a person who performs counseling as part of the person’s professional training.
The ban comes with a $500 per-day fine for anyone performing what is called “conversion therapy.” The ordinance does not specifically outline what that therapy entails, but states that it is discredited and harmful.
The ordinance does not intend to limit counselors from actually encouraging or accepting homosexuality or gender identity changes among those under the age of 18, only from discouraging it. It states clearly that various forms of sexuality are part of the natural spectrum of identity. However, it does not define all forms of sexuality, such as sexual addiction, hyper-sexuality, cross-dressing, or pan-sexuality. The ordinance applies to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender sexual preferences.
According to Gallup, in 2017 the percentage of Americans who identify as LGBT was 4.5%, but 8.1% of millennials self-identified as LGBTQ.
Counselors may still assist and support youth as they go through chemical castration and other medical procedures to present themselves as the opposite sex.
Counselors may also provide acceptance, support, and understanding of a young person’s sexual preferences, but may not provide a counter viewpoint or inquire of the child about whether or not their sexual behavior is the result of prior abuse. To do so would indicate they are not honoring the child’s human rights, according to the ordinance.
Counselors can support the “identity exploration, and development, including sexual orientation and gender identity-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.”
This means any conversations about gender identity must support the child’s viewpoint, rather than the child and the family as a whole. But the ordinance does not address what happens if the child is ambivalent or changes his or her mind about his or her sexuality.
“It is unlawful for any provider to provide, apply, or use sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts with a patient who is a minor,” the new law reads.
Laws such as this have been passed around the country, and many are equally vague about what it means to perform “conversion therapy.”