Alaska’s Anchorage Assembly is considering a ban on counseling aimed at helping youth with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. If passed, the measure would prohibit Anchorage counselors, therapists, psychologists and health care providers from helping minors work through such issues.
The ordinance, AO 2020-65, introduced by three gay members of the Assembly, encourages counseling that “assists a person undergoing gender transition,” but if a patient requests counseling for unwanted sexual urges or expressions, the counselor must decline—or face a fine of $500 per day. Opponents have labeled such counseling “conversion therapy,” a derisive term meant to stir up images of shock therapy and other extreme measures.
“There’s a fear that people who want help are not going to be able to get it,” said Jim Minnery, president of Christian public policy organization Alaska Family Council. “Minors who struggle with gender dysphoria or unwanted same-sex attraction should have the help that they desire.”
Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council warned that sexuality among minors can change as children grow in or out of experimentation phases.
He also argued that the ban on counseling is a form of “viewpoint discrimination” by a governing body. The ordinance clearly promotes only one view and criminalizes others, and would discourage therapists from asking their clients pointed questions concerning sexuality or gender for fear of being sued.
On July 27, Alaska Family Council, Anchorage Baptist Temple, Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council offered a workshop via Zoom to provide an analysis of the ordinance and to answer questions.
AO 2020-65 was taken up before the Assembly the following day. Although Assembly chambers were closed to the public due to COVID-19, concerned residents were encouraged to testify by phone or email.
Assembly members have yet to vote on the measure.
“This ordinance strikes at the very heart of religious freedom, parental rights, counselor and patient confidentiality and choice,” Alaska Family Council posted on Facebook. “It is breathtaking in its scope and it is something every pastor, counselor and advocate of client/patient rights should be concerned about. Frankly, all Alaskans should be opposed to it.”
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