Every year, my local chapter of Americans United has the privilege of reading through all of the legislation which has been designed to knock holes in Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state (or what’s left of it here in Oklahoma) and every year the State Representative from the 84th district delivers us a handful and a headache. This year, she wrote up three sequentially numbered house bills, all of which are designed to legally reinforce the faith-based idea that LGBT persons ought to be kept separate and unequal.
The purpose of this bill is to legally protect business owners who refuse to do business with LGBT individuals and groups. Here is the core of it:
A. No business entity shall be required to provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges related to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association.
B. The refusal of a business entity to engage in any activity described in subsection A of this section shall not result in a civil or criminal fine under state or local law based upon the refusal.
If you happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, in Sally Kern’s dystopian world, the emergency room can close its doors to you. The ambulance can just drive on by. Restaurants, bars, and hotels can tell you that your kind just isn’t welcome there. Does any of this sound familiar? It should.
HB1598 – Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act
This bill is designed to allow parents to coerce their children into “conversion therapy,” a pseudoscientific practice purported to turn gay people straight. It starts out by explicitly lumping together evidence-based mental health practitioners with faith-based ministers, “‘Mental health provider’ means a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, professional counselor or marital and family therapist, pastor and youth minister. . .” and goes on to empower all such persons to “engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a child under eighteen (18) years of age.”
What do actual medical professionals have to say about this so-called therapy?
The terms reparative therapy and sexual orientation conversion therapy refer to counseling and psychotherapy aimed at eliminating or suppressing homosexuality. The most important fact about these “therapies” is that they are based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, six published by the American Psychiatric Association, which defines the standards of the field, does not include homosexuality. All other major health professional organizations have supported the American Psychiatric Association in its declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. Thus, the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or that the emergence of same-sex attraction and orientation among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy has no support among any mainstream health and mental health professional organizations.
Despite the general consensus of major medical, health and mental health professions that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality, efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy have been adopted by some political and religious organizations and aggressively promoted to the public. However, such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.
Because of the aggressive promotion of efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy, a number of medical, health and mental health professional organizations have issued public statements about the dangers of this approach. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers together, representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured.”
Little more need be said on this point, but much more could be. Perhaps we should leave the delimitation of what counts as medical malpractice in the hands of professionals, instead of carving out faith-based legal loopholes?
HB1599 – Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act
Against all odds, this bill gets even weirder than the other two. The substantive part of this bill is intended to defund any state activities that would lead to marriage equality, like so:
No taxpayer funds or governmental salaries shall be paid for any activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage. No employee of this state and no employee of any local governmental entity shall officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license and continue to receive a salary, pension or other employee benefit at the expense of taxpayers of this state. No taxes or public funds of this state shall be spent enforcing any court order requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage license.
Since this issue has already been thoroughly litigated and well-settled over the course of a ten-year court battle, Kern’s bill goes on to declare itself immune from judicial review at both the state and federal level. “The courts of this state shall dismiss any challenge to any portion of the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, with an award of costs and attorney fees to defendants,” it says, then boldly states that the “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act shall be fully effective . . . against any contrary federal court ruling.” For those who slept through eighth grade civics, that isn’t how our system works. No doubt some members of any given legislature would love to pass laws mandating that the executive sign them and courts enforce them just as is, but the whole point in having separate and co-equal branches is to prevent such unilateral arrogations of power.
The federal courts exist in part to protect our fundamental civil liberties against majoritarian tyranny. If you want to roll back the Supremacy Clause and Equal Protection Clause, Representative Kern, you’re going to need more than a State Law to do so. Robert E. Lee had a vast army arrayed behind him, and yet they could not stop the arc of history from bending towards justice. Do not expect that you will succeed where they failed.