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Canadian city Calgary bans 'conversion therapy'

Canadian city Calgary bans 'conversion therapy'

A Calgary, Canada, rainbow "pride" transit bus is seen here | Screenshot: Calgary Global

The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, passed a new bylaw barring counseling services for people seeking help with unwanted sexual attractions and gender confusion, often derisively referred to as "conversion therapy."

According to GlobalNews.ca, earlier this month a committee recommended to the city council that a new bylaw be implemented to prohibit such counseling as a business, and forbid the advertising of the counseling with potential penalties that include a year in prison or a $10,000 fine.

The measure passed after a day of debate in a 14-1 vote.

The lone vote against the bylaw, Councillor Joe Magliocca, originally supported it but voted against the final version following the rejection of a proposed amendment to word the measure with language that more closely mirrored a proposed federal ban.

“With this, the City of Calgary initiates new regulations to protect Calgarians, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, to continue to be a city that is welcoming for all, committed to supporting equality and human rights,” the city said in a statement following the bylaw's passage.

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During the day of debate, proponents of the ban used the Restored Hope Network's Hope 2019 conference in one of their documentaries in order to push the ban. The Restored Hope Network is a U.S.-based Christian ministry serving those with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion. 

Anne Paulk, who heads RHN, told The Christian Post Wednesday that the term "conversion therapy" is consistently used to obfuscate the issue and that the measure is unfair to those who are seeking help.

"It is not loving to ban belief and compassionate care for those who have unwanted same-sex attraction or unwanted gender dysphoria. Those who seek support should be able to find it. And yet, banning belief and compassionate care is exactly what recently happened in Calgary, Canada," Paulk said.

"The government does not seem to care that some want to be gay or trans and others do not. The others be condemned."

Paulk continued that she has encountered comments from those who say the new bylaw will not impact anyone's ability to speak with their pastor on these matters. But that is only as long as the pastor toes the new government-approved line on sexual ethics, she maintained.

"The State is determining what is acceptable practice for the Church in Canada and wielding dangerous power at this time. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in 'Letter from Birmingham Jail,' 'The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.'

"'There is only one right way to think,' say the cultural relativists. The rest of you have no right to any other view. Irony is missed completely in their heady move of power against any who disagree. Religion must change to conform to their particular view of culture as well. LGBT ideology has become the state religion."

This year's RHN annual conference is being held virtually in June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the United States, similar prohibitions in cities and states have been adopted in recent years. But some say the majority decision in the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in NIFLA v. Becerra — a dispute centering around the free speech rights of crisis pregnancy center operators in California and a contested state law called the Reproductive FACT Act — arguably undercut such bans in that it referenced earlier cases where the speech of professional counselors who offered therapeutic options for unwanted sexual attractions and gender confusion was litigated.

The NIFLA ruling held that the speech of pregnancy center staff ought not to be constricted by law, likening their speech to that of counselors who should also not be legally hampered simply because their speech is classified as "conduct" and uttered by professionals. 

In an apparent response to the high court's ruling, New York City moved to scrap its ban on counseling services on same-sex attraction, believing that it would not withstand constitutional scrutiny if challenged in court given the changing composition of the federal judiciary.

Similarly, a Tampa city ordinance banning voluntary counseling for minors with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion was overturned in federal court in the fall of 2019. The court held that the city government does not have the standing to attempt to interfere with confidential conversations that occur in therapy sessions.

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