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February 17, 2014 Print

Washington House Passes Bill that Would Ban Sexual-Orientation Therapy

by Bethany Monk

The Washington House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that would make it illegal for minors to receive counseling for unwanted same-sex attractions.

HB 2451 is modeled after bills passed in California and New Jersey that ban sexual-orientation change effort (SOCE) counseling for anyone under 18 — even when the client requests it. It passed 94-4 in the House. The legislation now heads to the Senate.

Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW), said it was no surprise the bill passed the Democrat-controlled House. The margin by which it passed, though, came as a “shock.”

“It got a lot of support from House Republicans in a surprising way,” Backhom told CitizenLink. “And I think they were just afraid of being characterized in their upcoming elections this fall as people who would support shock treatment and ice baths if they opposed this kind of a bill.”

Supporters of HB 2451 told such stories to paint a dark picture of such therapy.

“While that kind of aversive therapy is broadly condemned, there is little-to-no evidence that such therapy is done commonly if at all,” he explained. “The Washington State Department of Health said they have received no complaints about therapists performing coercive sexual orientation change therapy of any kind — much less ice baths and shock therapy — against the will of a client.”

For those who want to change, SOCE therapy can work.

David Pickup, a licensed therapist in Glendale, Calif., talked to CitizenLink — in an earlier interview — about the success he’s witnessed. He sought SOCE counseling many years ago. It worked for him, and it’s worked for several of his clients.

“For every client that I’ve seen who is motivated and who really does want to change and who doesn’t get discouraged — who follows through and doesn’t give up, there has been a significant and spontaneous lessening or dissipation of homosexual attraction,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s law two years ago. Pickup filed suit shortly after. A federal appeals court upheld the ban last month. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following California’s lead, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar bill this past summer. Liberty Counsel is challenging the law.

“It’s really important that people contact their legislators,” Backholm said. “The rights of people to get counseling in a way that is consistent with their faith, and the rights of people to receive counseling that they want for themselves, are very much at stake.”

Learn more about Washington’s HB 2451.

Read “The (Complete) Lack of a Scientific Basis for Banning Sexual-Orientation Change Efforts with Minors,” by Christopher Rosik, Ph.D.