Thursday, January 9, 2014

Politics & Social Policy

Maryland lawmaker to introduce bill banning gay conversion therapy for minors
Delegate Jon Cardin
By Brody Levesque | ANNAPOLIS -- A Maryland lawmaker, Delegate Jon S. Cardin, (D-Baltimore County ) announced this week that he will introduce a bill this legislative session, prohibiting licensed mental health professionals in Maryland from practicing therapies on children, designed to change their sexual orientation – often called gay conversion, reparative or ex-gay therapies.
Speaking to LGBTQ Nation Thursday, Cardin's Chief of Staff and Legislative Director Joshua Greenfield, said that the time had arrived to signal to the rest of the country that these types of discredited practices needed to be eliminated and in following California and New Jersey's lead, Maryland will join the other states that are banning the practice.
Greenfield, noted that there was absolutely no support for so-called reparative/conversion therapy in the medical professional community. He added that Maryland appeared to be a hotbed of activity for these therapeutic practices by numerous mental health professionals and organizations in the state, as evidenced by his office's check of the conservative self-labeled christian family organisation Focus on the Family's website, which revealed that factor.
In a statement to LGBTQ Nation, Cardin said, “The major medical and psychological organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have recognized that being gay is not a disease or a choice. It is not something you can change with any therapy. Attempting to change sexual orientation with ‘therapy’ does a child far more harm than good.”
Greenfield said that the draft legislation is modeled after the recently passed California bill which outlawed the practice and withstood a legal challenge from proponents of the so-called ex-gay therapy in Federal Court. The California bill was affirmed as constitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pickup v. Brown (2013) 
Incorporated into the language of the legislation were included definitions, exceptions and punishment provisions, in order to defeat any First Amendment free speech challenges.
Greenfield noted that Cardin's draft legislation is limited to treatment of minors adding that the bill in no way affects the ability of religious leaders or organizations from teaching or advising their congregants on issues of sexual orientation. He also said that Cardin's measure has also been amended to strength protections for Transgender Marylanders.
When asked about legislative support for the measure, Greenfield said that it was still early in the session although Delegate Anne Kaiser, a member of the LGBT Caucus, co-sponsored the bill, and in the state Senate, the bill will be cross-filed by Senator Richard Madaleno, a member of the Senate LGBT caucus. He added that co-sponsors in a bipartisan approach are currently being sought.
Delegate Kaiser said “Gay conversion therapy is dangerous, unhealthy and is opposed by legitimate medical practitioners. I am proud to co-sponsor this important legislative effort that will support the health and well-being of all Maryland children.” 
Greenfield mentioned that one of the proponents of ex-gay therapy, is Bowie, Maryland based Richard Cohen, a former youth counselor who was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002. Cohen is the founder of International Healing Foundation, an ex-gay conversion organization and also sits on the Prince Georges County Schools Health Council.
That school system recently recently screened a video to middle school students entitled “Acception,” which features an interview with a gay-to-straight therapist and tells the story of a woman whose same sex attraction was claimed to be cured by gay conversion therapy, allowing her to be accepted by her family.
Greenfield said that Cardin believes it is "absolutely time to end these damaging therapeutic practices."
Efforts to reach the International Healing Foundation for comment were unsuccessful Thursday as repeated phone calls or emails went unanswered.

Tea Party Republican introduces "State Marriage Defense Act of 2014"
Weber speaking with FRC head Tony Perkins via Facebook
WASHINGTON -- Texas Tea Party GOP Congressman Randy Weber, introduced the State Marriage Defense Act Thursday. The measure will require federal agencies to look to a person’s legal residence when determining marital status and application of federal laws.
This is a departure from current policy which sets recognition of federal benefits based on the state where the marriages took place.
According to Weber's website;
"The “State Marriage Defense Act of 2014” is to help restore the 10th Amendment, affirm the authority of states to define and regulate marriage, as well as, provide clarity to federal agencies seeking to determine who qualifies as a spouse for the purpose of federal law. By requiring that the Federal Government defer to the laws of a person’s state of legal residence in determining marital status, we can protect states’ constitutionally established powers from the arbitrary overreach of unelected bureaucrats.” 
He also states “The 10th Amendment was established to protect state sovereignty and individual rights from being seized by the Federal Government. For too long, however, the Federal Government has slowly been eroding state’s rights by promulgating rules and regulations through federal agencies."
Weber appeared Thursday afternoon on the daily radio show hosted by the Family Research Council president Tony Perkins,  where he said that he drafted his State Marriage Defense Act because of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, although he allowed that he had not completely read the entire Windsor decision.
Perkins noted that the ongoing battles over what he termed "natural marriage" was an overt act by the Obama administration to undermine state's rights in those states that have banned same-sex marriages or civil unions;
"The current Obama administration policy is doing the very thing which the Court condemned – "creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State," Perkins said in a statement and reiterated on his show. "The State Marriage Defense Act serves to protect state definitions of marriage against what the Court called efforts "to put a thumb on the scales and influence a state's decision as to how to shape its own marriage laws."
Weber’s legislation was introduced with 28 co-sponsors and is supported in addition to the Family Research Council, by National Organization for Marriage, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, US Conference on Catholic Bishops, Concerned Women for America, and the conservative political Heritage Action PAC.