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September 6, 2019 (American Thinker) — As a teenager, Nate Oyloe was attracted to other boys. Hoping to change his sexual attractions, he sought therapy. Today, he is happily married to a woman. Most people would be glad that Nate has achieved the life he wanted. But not everyone is. Lawmakers in his home state of Minnesota recently passed a law banning the kind of therapy Nate received to help him overcome his unwanted same-sex attraction.

To date, twenty states and many cities have made it illegal to offer therapy for minors unless it affirms the LGBT agenda — and several more are considering similar bans. In these jurisdictions, therapists may help a child or teen accept same-sex attraction or a different gender identity, but they will not help a teen who aspires to change his same-sex attraction or sexual identity. It is illegal even to ask questions to help a child explore underlying issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

And if the federal Equality Act is enacted, it will be illegal across all states.

The Equality Act has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is now under consideration in the Senate. If it passes, it will amend the Civil Rights Act to elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes, like race and religion.

The Equality Act uses the controversial term “conversion therapy” and specifically bans it as “a form of discrimination.” That term is often used to refer to outdated forms of therapy such as electroshock or aversion therapy, techniques that used to be common for a variety of psychological issues but have long been discontinued.

Today, counseling offered to people like Nate is simply talk therapy, and the client is in control. The goal is to help the client align his behavior with his own goals, values, and aspirations. As Nate says, contrary to the picture painted by critics, “I was not coerced or abused — I was honored and loved. I was given the power of choice and the dignity to think for myself.”

This is the type of counseling the Equality Act would outlaw. You don't need a law degree to see that this would be a serious violation of free speech rights. It is also an unconscionable incursion of the state into the therapist-client relationship. In a free society, the state should not be telling people what therapy goals they are allowed to have.

The Equality Act's ban on gender counseling will violate the rights of anyone seeking help but will be particularly devastating for minors. For example, Jay Keck writes about his 14-year-old autistic daughter's sudden decision to become a boy. He had his daughter evaluated by a psychologist approved by the school district who said “it was very clear” that Keck's daughter's sudden transgender identity was “driven by her underlying mental health condition,” but he could not state it on the record for fear of losing his license.

The implications of such a broad ban at the federal level are staggering. Counselors, therapists, pastors — anyone who counsels people who have unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria — would be subject to criminal penalties and potentially charged with hate crimes and discrimination.

The Equality Act is more draconian that any state or city conversion therapy ban to date because it takes away the traditional constitutional exemption for religious freedom. The act specifically states that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) may not be invoked as a defense, marking the first time in history that Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This means that it could become illegal for Christian pastors, churches, schools, and ministries to communicate a message that sexual orientation or gender identity can change. The Equality Act is unprecedented in its overreach, impacting even adults who are willingly seeking counseling.

By contrast, therapy of any kind that pushes a person toward same-sex attraction or gender transition is not impacted by the law at all.

Banning counseling isn't the only thing the Equality Act will do:

  • Parents could lose custody of their children if they decline to assist in their gender transition. Parents in Ohio recently lost custody of their female child because they would not give her testosterone supplements to help her “transition” to look like a male.
  • Doctors and hospitals could be subject to lawsuits for refusing to perform so-called “sex change” surgeries. In California and New Jersey, Catholic hospitals are already being sued for discrimination for refusing to perform these surgeries.
  • Battered women's shelters could be required to admit members of the opposite sex. In Anchorage, Alaska, a male who was refused access to a shelter for abused and trafficked women sued the shelter for “gender identity discrimination.”
  • Faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that believe that children do best with both a mother and a father could be forced to shut down. This has already occurred in at least six states in this country.

The Equality Act is now in the Senate. House speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that it will bring the nation “closer to equal liberty and justice for all.” In reality, the bill will actually eliminate individual liberty — the freedom to seek help for unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion; the freedom to raise our children according to their sexes; the freedom to conscientiously object to certain practices in the workplace…and ultimately, the freedom to disagree with a state-approved orthodoxy.

The Equality Act will override the constitutional freedoms of all Americans and violate the very civil rights it purports to protect. America's anti-discrimination laws were enacted to protect us from arbitrary and malevolent discrimination, not to be used as a club to silence dissenting opinions.

Contact your members of Congress and tell them to vote no on the federal Equality Act.

Maria Martinez is an attorney in Texas.

Published with permission from the American Thinker.