Pima County Logic Ban

The Pima County Board of supervisors passed ordinance 2017-22 to ban therapy intended to change sexual orientation on Tuesday but instead banned logic itself. I was one of the public commenters but two minutes wasn’t enough. Had I more time, I would have pointed out the logic of this ordinance requires support for these 18 crazy things:

1) Any criticism against same sex attraction or gender identity should be illegal

So far, media coverage suggests 2017-22 is about only abusive therapy treatments. It’s not. Claiming it limits abusive therapy is like saying tougher immigration laws limit murders by undocumented immigrants. Both of them may accomplish those things but they both do much more than the overblown rhetoric implies.

This ordinance was touted as preventing “conversion therapy” but explicitly bans “any practice in which a person seeks to change another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” You can’t even bring it up as an option. Don’t be fooled to think this only bans the aggressive kind of therapy we all have in mind (i.e. electro-shock, ridicule, display of pornographic images, etc). It bans ALL paid speech by ANYONE that suggests changing sexual orientation – or even behavior related to it. A doctor who advises parents against sodomy or sex changes for their CHILDREN based on health reasons alone WILL BE FINED. It’s that bad! If kids are confused which way to go, the county insist they MUST choose same sex attraction or else!

The text of the county ordinance mentions “abusive” practices, but the law doesn’t do anything to prevent or punish abusive practices. Instead, it bans anyone from speaking critically about gay behavior or transgenderism both privately in a clinical setting or publicly such as in a church sermon or youth conference. What’s worse, it even hurts people with SSA, gender dysphoria (GD), LGBTQ kids, parents, and their counselors – the people the board should be trying to protect.

2) We should make it harder for kids with Same Sex Attraction (SSA)

2017-22 makes it illegal for any kid who has unwanted sexual attraction to seek professional help to attain the orientation the child truly wants. Does the board assume this is impossible? That no kid would ever really want to be heterosexual? Or that parents are too influential on their kids. All are scary propositions for government officials to be involved with. Surely some kids are brought reluctantly to therapy by their parents, but the board seems to suggest an overwhelming majority are. How do they know this? What if most are willing participants? It doesn’t seem to matter to Pima County officials. The supervisors are really saying, “Sorry kid, we know you want a certain sexual orientation but we know better than you, your parents, and expert therapists.”

3) Government should direct sexual orientation options

The ordinance assumes an inherent evil in seeking sexual orientation options for kids with same sex attraction. The fact some people willingly seek to change their orientation shouldn’t be controversial. People don’t consciously choose their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s more complex. LGBT rights advocates say this is evident because people with SSA wouldn’t intentionally choose a harder life and that our society isn’t totally accepting of the lifestyle. Social acceptance makes for an easier life whereas exclusion makes life harder. Some people (rightly or wrongly) think changing their sexual orientation is a way to an easier life. This ordinance prohibits this free choice. Therefore, this ordinance requires people with SSA or gender dysphoria to live a harder life. It doesn’t get more logical than that.

Like abstinence-only education, this law filters out certain information from being allowed in therapeutic sessions. If you’re an advocate for the county limiting sex information given to kids in school, you should be for limiting it here too. If you support this law, you would support abstinence-only education in our public schools. The board decided to go the inconsistent route hoping no one would notice. We noticed.

4) We should avoid counseling child predators

In my experience with child predators (I’m a Tucson detective), their attraction to young kids began in early adolescence. Some of the worst offenders felt attracted to kids as young as infants. If a 17 year-old child predator wants help to prevent his same sex attraction to younger kids, why isn’t there an exception in this ordinance to allow him the treatment he needs? Now that the law passed, no counselor in Pima county can legally help these future predators. Correction: if the victims are the opposite sex, they can get professional help, but no help is allowed to predators seeking kids of their same gender.

5) Kids with transgender feelings don’t change

It ignores the research showing the harm done by sex change surgery both physically and for suicide risk – the very thing this law tries to prevent. The most robust recent study shows suicide risk after sex changes statistically increased! It also ignores overwhelming studies showing transgender feelings often change as body and brain develop beyond adolescence.

6) Sex changes must be limited to one per person

This law requires only one sex change operation per person. There are only two seizes and this law prohibits anyone from encouraging another person from pursuing a gender identity that matches their biological sex. Once you reassign your gender through surgery and hormone treatment, this law makes it illegal for anyone in Pima County from helping you change back if you later decide to do another one. This ordinance caps your right to sex changes to 1 per person. That’s blatantly biased against transgenderism.

7) Counseling transgender kids should be Illegal

Suppose someone wants to change gender and is also attracted to their biological sex. The overly broad wording of the ordinance gets into trouble again here. There’s nothing in the law that restricts same sex attraction, but it does discourage counseling for people with who are both gay AND transgender. Once a person undergoes a gender reassignment transition they legally become the opposite sex but their orientation remained unchanged. Post-transition, they are now no longer sexually oriented to the same sex and require a transition to an opposite sex orientation (heterosexual). As such, they are now forbidden by Pima County officials from having professional help in their transition from gay to straight.

Consider the example of lesbian couple Abby and Sally. If Abby becomes Al, the now male person CANNOT get counseling relating to his attraction to Sally. Now that they are of the opposite sex, they can’t have therapy to now be opposite sex attracted whereas before they were of the same sex (protected by this law). Once again, willing participants are excluded. It’s interesting no exception is made here.

8) Bisexual counseling should be restricted

This law assumes we all participate in traditional two-person relationships (couples). This isn’t the case for everyone. Though unconventional, some people enjoy a mixed gender grouping of people such as one man and two women known as a “throuple.” In this case, at least one woman in the relationship would be excluded from counseling since the counselor would be required to encourage both same sex AND opposite sex attraction for the relationship to work. Perhaps the couple needs counseling because one of the females in the throuple gives more affection to the other female than the male. In this case, the counselor would be restricted from urging her to shift orientation towards the male. This needs to be another exception to the law. Until it is, counselors can’t help bisexuals like this.

9) Speech some people don’t like should be criminalized

The most troubling part is that it violates the most protected civil rights (the first thing listed in the Bill of Rights).

Suppose another county government proposed that counselors were prevented from providing therapy to help people accept their SSA or gender transition? Under what grounds would you object to speech restrictions to these counselors that would not apply to those speaking critically of medical dangers of homosexual behavior. You can’t.

10) People shouldn’t be able to teach religious beliefs to their kids

This law prevents traditional interpretations by Muslims and Jews from providing therapy to anyone with same sex attraction. You say you have gay-affirming Muslim and Jewish friends? I’ll show you a billion more who aren’t. This isn’t about Christian evangelicals but all kinds of religious systems including paganism that have religious traditions condemning homosexual behaviors. Whether they are true or false is irrelevant. If anyone dare suppose just one of the these systems is correct in their belief that the creator of the universe both intends the best for us and condemns SSA and GD behaviors. Wouldn’t it be foolish to oppose him? That is a case that can be made elsewhere but note it here just to acknowledge it as a live option. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose they are all wrong about their view of homosexuality or be poorly interpreting their scriptures. They have the right to be wrong and hold to religious beliefs and to speak freely.

11) People who converted their orientation shouldn’t help others do the same

Many counselors involved in sexual orientation or gender identity therapy are straight. However, many counselors who help their patients avoid SSA or gender change are themselves SSA or GD. That’s because many want to help people through a process they’ve experienced themselves. Now they can’t, at least not in Pima County.

12) A “Person” should be able to be fined by the county but not protected by the state

This law prevents a “person” (defined in the law under section 9.90.020 of the ordinance as “a natural person or, if the context permits it, any corporation, association, partnership, firm, trustee, or other entity.” If you were for the proposed senate bill allowing businesses to refuse service to anyone that would compromise religious beliefs about traditional marriage, you should be for this law. SB 1062 section 41-1493 defined a person in very similar terms yet the outcry from critics was that a business is not a person. In other words, they argued, an individual “person” may decline involvement in a same sex wedding, for example, but businesses don’t enjoy the same protections because they are offering services to the general public. If that’s the case, why does this county law reverse that logic by defining a person as a business? This law targets counselors operating under a business just as SB1062 intended to protect people operating as a business. Both offer services to the public so it makes no sense to allow one but not the other.

13) Child sodomy is healthy

The underlying assumption behind the law’s proponents is assumes without evidence: SSA/GD are healthy so any effort to oppose them is abusive. If a pediatrician recommends against sodomy or sex change surgery (remember this law is only for kids), she should be fined under this law. There is no exception for communicating heath risks. They are subject to these sanctions so long as they discourage behavior related to SSA or gender identity.

14) It’s abusive to educate children on anything some people don’t believe in

If the therapy is abusive, why not restrict parents from other settings where they can be urged to change their orientation of gender identity? Why allow parents to take kids to church or private schools where people are paid to teach against homosexual behavior and gender change? Why should counselors be the only ones prevented from discouraging these things? The law doesn’t draw a distinction. Pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, sheiks, doctors, journalists, lawyers, businesses, schools, churches, scientists, and professors are all included in this law’s definition. People from these groups sometimes urge people to change homosexual behavior and try get paid speaking or publishing fees or honorariums for doing so. Yet nothing in this ordinance excludes them from penalties. At $2,500 a piece, Pima County may have resolved all future budget problems with this one!

The county is charged with preventing child abuse and there’s an entire agency (AZ Dept of Child Services) dedicated to that end. Child abuse is clearly defined in state law (A.R.S. 8-201) and it’s important to note the text of this ordinance misses that definition by a long shot. People can disagree whether it’s good or even harmful, but it’s not abuse by the legal definition that matters when it comes to laws like this one.

15) Abuse can’t include harmful things I agree with

While I question the motives behind this law, I trust the supervisors when they say they want to protect kids. To check their honesty here, I wonder if they would agree to other abusive practices such as exposing kids to publicly displayed nudity and sex acts at gay pride festivals? Exposing kids to where sexual activity is present is listed in chapter two of the DCS policy and procedures manual. The manual makes no mention of conversion therapy therapy or any other kind of therapy.

Or would they be willing to restrict marriage only to a man and woman if kids raised outside of biological parent family do worse on average? If the same amount of research they use to show harm done by “conversion” therapy was shown to harm kids of same-sex parents for example, would they also ban gay parenting? I hope not, but they would have to if they consistently applied their concern for kids. When you cite research to make your point, be ready to shift when presented with better data.

16) Government should be in our kids’ sex lives

I was surprised to see Planned Parenthood make a public statement supporting this ordinance. After all, they fight for the government to stay out of sexual rights and to have all options available to kids and for their decision to be strictly between the patient and her doctor. This bill does the opposite. Yet in a Planned Parenthood publication entitled Teaching my Preschooler about Gender Identity, they encourage one-sided counseling:

“If you think your child might be transgender but don’t know what to do, talking with a counselor or therapist who’s familiar and supportive of LGBTQ identities is a good idea.” Why not an impartial counselor dedicated to patient health and scientific research?

For those desiring help, the Pima County board now forced the government into the rights in much the same private sexual way they fight against in the abortion issue. Instead, they are vehemently anti-choice on this issue. They fight for a 13 year-old girl to have all her options when it comes to the life of her baby but not with her sexual orientation.

17) Pima County should pass laws that are not enforceable but make political points

Like sodomy laws, this law is entirely unenforceable. Who from the government is going to monitor these sessions? We don’t know what measures the county will employ to inspect private speech between a patient and medical provider.

Let’s assume it will be reported by those kids who felt harmed by the treatment. How will the court prove their sexual orientation separate from the complainants claims? The government bears the burden to prove the victim had SSA in the first place and not a confused heterosexual like many kids coming to terms with their sexuality are. Who from the government is going to make this determination and how? Do we want the courts to make rulings on our kids’ sexuality in order to punish the free speech of their therapist?

Assuming these challenges could be overcome, which government employee decides which person is fined and what amount? What discretion is there? The fine can be “up to $2,500.” What’s not mentioned is the criteria is used to determine the fine and who gets to decide.

Counselors can still do conversion therapy without charging a fee. If the therapy is harmful, why would a fee matter?

18) Government officials know better than parents when it comes to therapy

The threat to parental authority is so obvious even the ordinance sponsor Richard Elias concedes in this quote by TucsonNewsNow, “The rights of parents are limited here in American society and part of that is protecting our children from abusive practices.”

The knee jerk reaction might be retaliation. Supervisor Ally Miller could propose a law that prevents parents from exposing their kids to the nudity and overt sexuality at gay pride events. I sympathize with the feeling that drives that impulse but think it would be the wrong move. And I think Miller agrees. Why? Because parental rights are paramount even if she thinks it’s harmful. This law limits parental authority in the name of our kids’ health and freedom but forfeits both in the process.

What can we conclude?

Much like florists, bakers, and photographers who came before them, counselors are sure to be targeted under this new law. When that happens, an army of lawyers from great firms like ADF or ACLJ will come to their aid. But it will be costly. To fight this looming battle, both Pima County taxpayers and prosecuted counselors will invest in unimaginable legal fees.

The media did a poor job covering this story. Nowhere in local reporting do you see the kind of arguments listed above and sometimes they were flat wrong. Tucson reporter Bud Foster, who briefly engaged me at the hearing, wrongly stated in his piece the SCOTUS upheld California’s ban. Foster is probably referring to the May 2017 refusal by the court to hear the case. They get thousands of cases and can’t hear them all. He’s right the ruling was upheld but wrong about the court. He was mistaken to say the SCOTUS ruled on it by upholding the ban when they never even read it. Should it be surprising the far left 9th circuit would uphold the ban? The high court may eventually accept an appeal as more conflicts arise. As more local governments are challenged in court on laws like this, the SCOTUS probably will eventually take the case. Until then, the matter isn’t settled.

If this were a debate about controversial conversion therapy, we could debate the merits and risks of that kind of therapy. This ordinance does more than that, however; and causes tremendous collateral damage in the process.

You may be wondering why even LGBT people are threatened by this ordinance. After all, why would an ordinance hurt the very people it’s intended to protect? There are three reasons:

First, the collateral damage caused to these groups is partly due to the overly broad way the text was written. The text grants the government power to fine doctors, rabbis, teachers, and many others who have nothing to do with conversion therapy if they’ve even heard of it. This ordinance penalizes ANYONE operating in a paid professional capacity who “seeks to change…sexual orientation…behavior…expression…or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward persons of the same sex.” When the author defines “conversion therapy” this way, he made any criticism by a professional equal to conversion therapy. It would be equivalent to proposing a law against torturing kittens that defined “torture” as domesticating them as pets. Who’s against torturing kittens? Nobody. But the question should be “who’s against making kittens our pets?” Surely, this is political sleight of hand at it’s finest.

Second, I think the reason it hurts SSA/GD people is because the behavior associated with those conditions is inherently unhealthy. When the government  prevents treatment of unhealthy behaviors, those behaviors don’t suddenly become healthy.

Third, as you’ve seen by now, this ordinance is logically inconsistent. When something lacks logical consistency, the error will appear in various ways when applied to the real world. As my mentor Greg Koukl and founder of Stand to Reason says: If something is untrue or logically inconsistent, there will always be a flaw.

This law hurts everyone and is a serious encroachment to our most basic civil rights enshrined in the Constitution, namely, the right to free speech and freedom of religion. This is no less so for LGBT people who have a right to whatever counseling they and their parents want to explore. According to Foster’s report, “Elias, argued it’s a ‘civil rights issue.’ Even coming from different sides of the issue, that is something we can agree with.


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