Category archives: Human Sexuality

Women Deserve Better (Part 4): Legitimizing Prostitution Will Not Make It Safer

by Patrina Mosley

October 17, 2019

This is Part 4 of a series on prostitution. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Sex work” advocates say that legalization would make prostitution safer and healthier because states could require sex workers and buyers to use condoms and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They believe that criminalizing the act of selling sex only increases stigma and causes sex workers to avoid sexual health services.

These “sex work” advocates misplace the application of justice—they are more preoccupied with overcoming stigma than with alleviating exploitation. The evidence clearly demonstrates that, contrary to what they argue, legalizing prostitution would not make those caught up in prostitution healthier or safer. The only parties who would stand to benefit are the exploiters who buy and sell human beings.

There is no reason to believe that decriminalizing prostitution would result in better sexual health. Having multiple sexual partners is not criminalized, yet STD cases are at an all-time high, according to the latest Center For Disease Control report. Undoing criminal penalties for selling sex will not reduce STDs or make persons in prostitution any healthier than those within the 2.4 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia recently—only abstinence and keeping sex within the confines of a committed marriage will do this. Imagine what the STD rate would be if the sex trade is legalized and new clients enter a market in which bans are lifted? A 2018 study surveyed 8,000 American men and found that over 20 percent of respondents who had never bought sex before said that they would if it was decriminalized or legalized.

Legalizing prostitution with the requirement of wearing condoms has not proven to increase the safety of persons caught up in prostitution. One study of Australian communities with legalized or fully-decriminalized brothel-based prostitution reveals that sex buyers still encourage one another, and pressure prostituted persons, to not use condoms. The study notes:

Sex buyers frame unsafe sex practices as both an expected part of the sexual encounter and as a feature of the brothel experience that women are expected to be comfortable with and acquiesce to [emphasis added]. When women are reported as showing signs that they are uncomfortable about unprotected sex, or require more payment to perform it, punters construct the experience in negative terms.

Requirements placed on exploiters (brothel owners, pimps, and traffickers) and persons caught up in prostitution would only protect the consumers, not the victims who will encounter buyers with pre-existing STDs and/or other health hazards. To think that exploiters would be transformed into law-abiding entrepreneurs complying with inspections and regulations—especially when it impedes the ability to increase profit—is dangerously naive.

An extensive evaluation of the legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands was coordinated by the Dutch Ministry of Justice. They found that licensed brothels did not welcome frequent regulatory inspections. And the Netherlands, which has some of the most liberal prostitution laws in the world, is viewed as the country “where anything goes with regard to prostitution” (pg.12)! The Netherlands is also well known for the facilitation of human trafficking. Because of the general unwillingness to comply with even liberal restrictions, the Dutch police has had to dedicate an entire unit just for inspection enforcements. “The feeling in the prostitution sector is that licensed businesses are inspected more often than non-licensed businesses. This situation undermines the willingness of owners of licensed businesses to adhere to the rules and complicates the combat against trafficking in human beings” (pg. 11).

Even countries like New Zealand must acknowledge that their decision to decriminalize prostitution did not improve “working conditions” for prostituted persons: “New Zealand’s Prostitution Law Review Committee found that a majority of prostituted persons felt that the decriminalization act “could do little about violence that occurred” (pg. 14). The Committee further reported that abusive brothels did not improve conditions for prostituted individuals; the brothels that ‘had unfair management practices continued with them’ even after the decriminalization.”

Decriminalizing or legalizing prostitution would not make those caught up in prostitution healthier or safer. It would only benefit the exploiters and make the state a collaborator in the exploitation of women and children. Such policies say to pimps and traffickers, “We’ve got your back” and to victims, “Good luck out there!” Laws are inherently meant to discourage certain types of behavior, and good laws promote the right types of behavior. Enabling organized sexual exploitation only succeeds in inviting more crime and exploitation in other forms, devaluing women and children, and legitimizing the buying and selling of human beings for pleasure.

Stay tuned for Part 5, which will take a more in-depth look at the path forward for going after the perpetrators of sexual exploitation.

Federal Court Ruling in Texas Is a Big Win for Religious Liberty

by Katherine Beck Johnson

October 16, 2019

An Obama-era regulation went to court recently at a U.S. federal courthouse in Texas. In Franciscan Alliance v. Azar, Judge Reed O’Connor issued an opinion striking down a Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring doctors to perform gender transition procedures. Judge O’Connor held that the Rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

In May 2016, the federal government, through HHS, issued a mandate that would require a doctor to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including a child. The Rule required doctors to provide these procedures even if the doctor believed it could harm the patient. In addition, the mandate required virtually all private insurance companies and many employers to cover gender reassignment therapy. If the insurance companies or employers refused, they would face severe penalties and legal action. While HHS exempted Medicare and Medicaid, they expressly prohibited religious exemptions. The Plaintiffs asked the District Court to vacate the Rule and convert its previously entered preliminary injunction to a permanent injunction.

Judge O’Connor held that the Rule violates RFRA. The Rule substantially burdened Plaintiffs’ sincere religious beliefs without a compelling interest. In addition, the Rule expressly prohibits religious exemptions.

The Plaintiffs’ refusal to perform, refer for, or cover transitions or abortions is a sincere religious exercise. In order to follow this sincere religious belief, the mandate requires extensive expenses. The Rule places significant pressure to perform and cover transition and abortion procedures, it forces Plaintiffs to provide the federal government an extremely persuasive justification for their refusal to perform or cover such procedures, and it requires them to remove the categorical exclusion of transitions and abortions. Judge O’Connor found that the Rule makes the practice of religion more expensive in the business context.  

Judge O’Connor ruled that the Defendants did not provide a compelling interest that would justify the burden on religious exercise. Those advocating in favor of the mandate argued that a compelling interest was specified in the preamble to the Rule, which states, “the government has a compelling interest in ensuring that individuals have nondiscriminatory access to health care and health coverage.” Judge O’Connor found that although that could arguably satisfy a categorical application of strict scrutiny, it cannot satisfy RFRA’s “more focused” inquiry. He said that even if those in favor of the mandate had provided a compelling interest, they failed to prove the Rule employs the least restrictive means.

The Rule was vacated (as opposed to a less severe permanent injunction) because it was found to be arbitrary and capricious. The Rule was found to be “contrary to law” under the APA due to its conflict with Title IX, its incorporated statute.

Judge O’Connor’s ruling is a huge win for religious liberty. HHS under President Trump is also working to take strides that further protect religious liberty. In May 2019, HHS proposed bringing its regulations into compliance with those decisions and ensuring that the government did not interfere and require a person to go against their convictions to provide gender transition procedures. The win in Texas coupled with the new rules from HHS provide optimism for the future of religious liberty.

Women Deserve Better (Part 3): How Legitimizing Prostitution Empowers Exploitation

by Patrina Mosley

October 16, 2019

This is Part 3 of a series on prostitution. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Prostitution. It is a profession allegedly as old as time. Since it will always exist, why not make it better? Or so say the “sex work” advocates and progressive politicians who push for either the decriminalization or legalization of prostitution. But both approaches are misguided.

To most of us, decriminalization and legalization might sound like the same thing. But in this context, decriminalization refers to removing government penalties for prostitution, while legalization refers to removing government penalties and imposing a regulatory structure on sex work (while something can be legalized and unregulated and also remain illegal, and civil penalties—as opposed to criminal penalties—can apply, that’s not what we are talking about here). While decriminalization and legalization are not the same thing, they are alike in that they hurt the very people they claim to protect.

According to Villanova’s Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, the decriminalization of prostitution “decriminalizes the sale of sex, decriminalizes the purchase of sex, and does not impose a legal scheme to regulate the commercial sex industry.” To decriminalize something means that it is no longer a crime to do that thing. Simply put, the decriminalization of prostitution means it would no longer be a crime to participate in the buying and selling of human beings for sex.

The District of Columbia is currently considering legislation that would fully decriminalize the sex trade in D.C. This means pimping, purchasing sex, and operating brothels would no longer be crimes in the nation’s capital.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 would decriminalize the sex trade, thereby enabling exploiters of women and youth and exacerbating sex trafficking within the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia metro area (locally referred to as the DMV area). Law enforcement would have no right to interfere with acts such as pimping, purchasing sex, and operating brothels, further isolating victims who are under pimp or trafficker control.

Rhode Island experimented with decriminalization in 1980 but eventually reversed course in 2009. Why? Because the state had transformed into a sex tourism destination and a hub for trafficking, violence, and crime. “The lack of law criminalizing or regulating commercial sex acts allowed for the growth of sex businesses in Rhode Island. By 2002, Providence was known as ‘New England’s red-light district.’ The lack of laws controlling prostitution impeded police from investigating and stopping serious crimes and prevented officials from arresting pimps, traffickers, and sex buyers.”

As our friends at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation encapsulate it:

Full decriminalization of prostitution, in which the laws regulating the activities of pimps, sex buyers and sellers are eliminated, represents the most egregious response to the commercial sex trade. Such an approach transforms pimps into entrepreneurs and sex buyers into mere customers. While decriminalization may redefine deviant and criminal behavior, it is incapable of transforming pimps into caring individuals who have the best interests of prostituting persons at heart, or metamorphosing sex buyers into sensitive, thoughtful, and giving sexual partners. Decriminalization of prostitution is powerless to change the essential, exploitive nature of commercial sex, and tragically grants it free rein.

The legalization of prostitution, on the other hand, “legalizes the sale of sex, legalizes the purchase of sex, and creates a legal scheme to regulate the commercial sex industry.” Like decriminalization, legalizing something means it is no longer a crime to do that thing. Unlike decriminalization, such acts would be regulated under the law. Several counties in Nevada have made prostitution legal and have laws that regulate the trade. These regulations cover brothel inspections and STD testing, among other things. New York recently considered decriminalizing certain statues related to the sex trade and legalizing other parts of the sex trade to, as they saw it, “bring [persons in prostitution] out of the shadows and ensure that they are protected.”

How does empowering the business of exploitation “protect” anyone? With everything we know about the abuse and violence that characterizes the commercial sex trade, equating unobstructed exploitation with victim protection is just as absurd as saying, “since many of those who endure rape feel the stigma of shame, let’s remove all penalties for rape and legitimize it so they won’t feel shame.”

No sensible person would say such a thing. “Protecting” victims by removing the stigma of exploiting them makes no sense whatsoever. Not seeing persons caught up in prostitution as what they are—victims of sexual exploitation—will misplace the application of justice. Legitimizing the buying and selling of human beings only makes it easier for pimps and traffickers to groom vulnerable women, boys, and girls into thinking that sexual violence is normal and acceptable.

Prostitution in the Netherlands is legal and regulated. The Dutch government legalized prostitution in 2000, and the entire community has felt the negative impact ever since. You can read numerous articles about the objectification and crowding prevalent in Amsterdam’s red-light district, known as “the capital of prostitution.” Prostitution has become so mainstream there that women stand in brothel windows like products to be bought. Yes, they are attracting customers, but now the district has become “the biggest free attraction park in the whole of Amsterdam,” as tourists come to gawk and snap pictures of the women for sale. Amsterdam is continually breaking up the organized crime that the business of the sex trade often attracts. The dehumanization of women, paired with the lack of effort to provide women with better options, has created problems on top of problems.

[ Watch: The Failure of Legalizing Prostitution in The Netherlands ]

One article put it bluntly: “The Dutch approach to prostitution is largely practical: sex work will always exist, so better for everyone to legalise, control and tax it.”

Persons caught up in prostitution will admit, “I don’t like it (selling my body), but I have to.” Kristina has been working in the red-light district for a decade. She was persuaded to come by a Hungarian friend who had found her fortune in Amsterdam’s seedy sex industry. “I’m saving for my two kids. For their future. They’re with my mother in Hungary. My kids don’t know what I do.”

So now, by legalizing and regulating the sex trade, the presiding government functions as Kristina’s pimp by exploiting an exploitation business for tax revenue—a never-ending cycle of exploitation. Advocates for sex trafficking victims in New York told CBS News that “Most often [legalizing prostitution] increases sex trafficking…If you legalize, you are condoning brothels to become businesses and pimps to become business managers. That’s what we’ve seen around the world. The argument about safety is false.”

Seeking to protect vulnerable individuals by either decriminalizing or legalizing prostitution is a misguided notion. The laissez-faire approach to protecting human dignity will always create more problems, not solutions.

Stay tuned for Part 4, which will examine whether or not decriminalization or legalization would make the prostitution industry safer and healthier.

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Tampa Therapy Ban

by Peter Sprigg

October 8, 2019

In a major victory for the personal freedom of young people with unwanted same-sex attractions to seek professional help to achieve their goals, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida has struck down a local ordinance in Tampa, Florida that outlawed sexual orientation change efforts (so-called “conversion therapy or reparative therapy”) for minors when conducted by licensed professionals.

In Vazzo v. Tampa, U.S. District Court Judge William F. Jung, a 61-year-old Trump appointee who has been on the bench for a year, struck down the law and issued a permanent injunction against its enforcement. Plaintiff Robert Vazzo, a licensed marriage and family therapist, was represented in the case by Liberty Counsel.

Judge Jung chose not to directly address federal constitutional issues of free speech under the First Amendment, which has been the focus of other court challenges to therapy bans. Instead, he ruled that local governments in Florida had no authority to legislate on this issue because of an “implied preemption doctrine,” declaring, “The City Ordinance is preempted by the comprehensive Florida regulatory scheme for healthcare regulation and discipline.”

Judge Jung wrote that “substantive regulation of psychotherapy is a State, not a municipal concern,” and pointed out that “Tampa has never regulated healthcare substantively in any other way before” this ordinance was adopted in 2017.

Not only are local governments not authorized by Florida law to regulate the provision of mental health care services, but they are hardly competent to enforce such regulations. Judge Jung noted this in the following passage (emphasis added; citations omitted):

The City’s Department of Neighborhood Enhancement (formerly Code Enforcement) enforces the Ordinance. Although this is the City Department that usually enforces code violations like overgrown weeds and unpermitted contracting, the City’s Neighborhood Enhancement director testified that he would take any suspected violation of the SOCE Ordinance to the City Attorney before issuing a notice of violation. The Assistant City Attorney tasked as representative on this matter has been a lawyer for four years but has no training in counseling, therapy, or medicine; and stated that the City would consult Webster’s Dictionary to understand the terms in the Ordinance. If contested, the City would employ a “special magistrate” to adjudicate the alleged violation as a code enforcement proceeding. The City’s special magistrates are unpaid volunteers appointed by the mayor. The City has no plan in connection with the Ordinance to appoint someone who is a licensed mental health provider.

Not only would the enforcers of such a law be incompetent to do so, but the enactors of it did so in ignorance:

The main sponsor of the Ordinance on the council was unaware of the difference between talk therapy and aversive practices, and testified that council and participating staff are untrained in the mental health field.

Judge Jung’s reliance on “preemption doctrine” may help fuel other efforts to overturn (or lobby against) other local therapy bans across the country. Although 18 states have passed state-wide therapy bans, passing such local ordinances in more liberal urban areas is a tactic therapy opponents have employed in conservative states that have refused to adopt state-wide legislation.

However, Judge Jung’s opinion in the case is not so narrowly written as to be applicable only to local ordinances. For example, he ruled that the ordinance encroached upon at least five principles of state law in Florida which would apply to any proposed state therapy ban there (and possibly in other states) as well:

  • Florida’s Broad Right of Privacy” (“The Florida Constitution’s privacy amendment suggest that government should stay out of the therapy room.”)
  • Parental Choice in Healthcare” (“… [W]ith very few exceptions, parents are responsible for selecting the manner of medical treatment received by their children … until age 18.”)
  • Florida’s Patient’s Bill of Rights” (“A patient has the right to access any mode of treatment that is, in his or her own judgment and the judgment of his or her health care practitioner, in the best interests of the patient, including complementary or alternative health care treatments . . .”)
  • Florida’s Endorsement of Alternative Healthcare Options” (“It is the intent of the Legislature that citizens be able to make informed choices for any type of health care they deem to be an effective option … including … treatments designed to complement or substitute for the prevailing or conventional treatment methods.”)
  • Florida’s Well-Established Doctrine of Informed Consent” (“When the patient is denied the ability to exercise or even consider informed consent, the patient’s personal liberty suffers.”)

The judge’s decision also cited abundant evidence in the record of the case demonstrating scientifically how weak the case for any such therapy bans is (source citations omitted):

• Minors can be gender fluid and may change or revert gender identity.

• Gender dysphoria during childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood.

• Formal epidemiologic studies on gender dysphoria in children, adolescents, and adults are lacking.

• One Tampa expert testified there is not a consensus regarding the best practices with prepubertal gender nonconforming children.

• A second Tampa expert testified consensus does not exist regarding best practices with prepubertal gender nonconforming children, but a trend toward a consensus exists.

• Emphasizing to parents the importance of allowing their child the freedom to return to a gender identity that aligns with sex assigned at birth or another gender identity at any point cannot be overstated.

• One cannot quantify or put a percentage on the increased risk from conversion therapy, as compared to other therapy.

• Scientific estimates of the efficacy of conversion therapy are essentially nonexistent because of the difficulties of obtaining samples following individuals after they exit therapy, defining success, and obtaining objective reassessment.

• Based on a comprehensive review of this work, the American Psychological Association 2009 SOCE Task Force concluded that no study to date has demonstrated adequate scientific rigor to provide a clear picture of the prevalence or frequency of either beneficial or harmful SOCE outcomes. More recent studies claiming benefits and/or harm have done little to ameliorate this concern.

• No known study to date [looking at 2014 article] has drawn from a representative sample of sufficient size to draw conclusions about the experience of those who have attempted SOCE.

• No known study [looking at same 2014 article] has provided a comprehensive assessment of basic demographic information, psychosocial wellbeing, and religiosity, which would be required to understand the effectiveness, benefits and/or harm caused by SOCE.

• Although research on adult populations has documented harmful effects of SOCE, no scientific research studies have examined SOCE among adolescents.

• With extraordinarily well-trained counseling “in a hypothetically perfect world” it may be an appropriate course of action for a counselor to aid a gender-dysphoric child who wants to return to biological gender of birth.

• There is a lack of published research on efforts to change gender identity among childhood and adolescents.

• As of October 2015 no research demonstrating the harms of conversion therapy with gender minority youth has been published. In 2018 an article was published on youth but causal claims could not be made from that 2018 report.

The Tampa ruling comes on the heels of New York City’s recent decision to repeal its adult therapy ban for fear of a negative precedent from a court case challenging it. Together, these two events have given welcome evidence that the days of such freedom-denying therapy bans may now be numbered.

Will Your Child Be Forced to Celebrate Sex Politics 15 Times This School Year?

by Cathy Ruse

September 30, 2019

Powerful forces are pushing your child’s public school to celebrate sex politics this year—15 times!

How many of these events have made it onto your school’s calendar? Find out today.

For the 2019-2020 School Year:

1. Banned Books Week (September 22-28, 2019) – Includes books that have never been banned, but have been the subject of parental concern because of age-inappropriate sexual content.

2. Ally Week (September 23-27, 2019) – Pressures students to declare themselves “allies” of students or teachers who identify as LGBT.

3. Bisexual Awareness Week (September 16-23)

4. LGBTQ History Month (Month of October 2019) – Labels historical figures as LGBT, even when they never identified as such.

5. National Coming Out Day (October 11, 2019)

6. International Pronouns Day (October 16, 2019) – Ignores the fact that forced declaration of one’s own pronouns, or false pronouns for others, violates free speech and religious freedom.

7. Spirit Day (October 17, 2019) – Encourages students and teachers to wear purple, and highlights LGBT bullying (even polite dissent can be characterized as “bullying”).

8. Transgender Awareness Week (November 12-19, 2019)

9. Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2019)

10. No Name-Calling Week (January 20-27, 2020)

11. Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31, 2020)

12. Day of Silence (April 24, 2020) – Known as the “high holy day” of LGBT activism.

13. International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (May 17, 2020)

14. Harvey Milk Day (May 22, 2020)

15. LGBTQ” Pride Month (June 2020)

Parents: You have the legal right to withhold and refuse consent for your child to participate in school events, assemblies, classes, or activities that violate your beliefs.

Your family’s faith and beliefs deserve respect. Demand it.

Remember, LGBTQ lobbyists are getting their “high holy days” on the school calendar even while many school districts are scrubbing Christmas Break for “Winter Break,” Easter Break for “Spring Break,” and Columbus Day for “Indigenous People’s Day.”

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: The philosophy of the public school in one generation will be the philosophy of the culture in the next.

Imagine what could happen if government schools just focused on providing an excellent education!

Thanks to Mission America for assembling the calendar events. Read here for more details.

Reduce the Demand for Sex Trafficking by Going After the Buyers

by Patrina Mosley

September 20, 2019

Recently, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced the bipartisan Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act, which would amend the minimum standards of combatting sex trafficking (contained in the current Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000) to include language prohibiting the purchase of sex.

This change would specifically target the buyers of sex. As Demand Abolition, a research organization dedicated to eradicating the commercial sex industry, puts it, “[s]ex buyers drive the illegal sex trade. Without their money, pimps and traffickers have zero incentives. No buyers = no business.” Demand Abolition’s research Who Buys Sex? found that U.S. sex buyers spend more than $100 per transaction on average.

As stated in the bill’s findings, “[r]esearch has shown that legal prostitution increases the demand for prostituted persons and thus increases the market for sex. As a result, there is a significant increase in instances of human trafficking.”

Thus, the bill declares that “if a government has the authority to prohibit the purchase of commercial sex acts but fails to do so, it shall be deemed to have failed to make serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.”

Passage of this bill would be an excellent step towards curbing the demand for paid sex. By making the purchase of sex acts illegal, it would implement a part of the Nordic model of combating commercial sexual exploitation. This model has proved successful in countries such as Sweden (which pioneered the model), Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, Ireland, and most recently, Israel. One of the model’s aims is to change the culture’s perception of certain behaviors and actions as unacceptable. Buying human beings is one such behavior the model discourages, and it does so by creating criminal sanctions for the buying of human beings.

You can check out my previous blog, How Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Are Inseparably Linked, for more information on what research has shown us on this subject. The Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act references a key piece of research that analyzed 150 countries and found that, on average, countries with legal prostitution experienced higher reports of human trafficking.

Efforts to combat sex trafficking should combine with efforts to combat prostitution. Both are businesses that profit through the buying and selling of human beings for sex. The Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act is a crucial step in positively shaping our country’s culture and re-affirming the human dignity of women, boys, and girls who are being bought and sold.

New York City to Repeal Ban on Adult Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

by Peter Sprigg

September 19, 2019

It’s not often that a legislative body moves to repeal a law that it enacted less than two years earlier—especially when it passed by a vote of 43-2.

Nevertheless, this week Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council (who openly self-identifies as gay) announced that he will move to repeal a city-wide ban on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), which critics of the practice call “conversion therapy.” My colleague Cathy Ruse has also written about this development at The Stream.

The law was enacted in late 2017 and just took effect last year.

Why the about-face? Unfortunately, it’s not because of a new-found respect for the rights of people with unwanted same-sex attractions to seek the help they desire.

Instead, they fear that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike the law down as unconstitutional.

In January 2019, an Orthodox Jewish therapist, Dr. David Schwartz, filed a lawsuit challenging the new law. He is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

As ADF points out in their complaint, “The Counseling Censorship Law is unprecedented. It is the first in the nation to censor speech between counselors and adult patients.” The 18 states, and other localities, that have already restricted SOCE have only prohibited the practice with minors—on the theory that they are more vulnerable to coercion and less able to give informed consent.

A bill similar to the New York City law, AB 2943, was considered in California last year, but was withdrawn by its sponsor at the last minute. California instead recently adopted a non-binding resolution, ACR 99, condemning SOCE.

Previously, therapy bans for minors in California and New Jersey had been upheld in federal circuit court decisions. Additional lawsuits are pending in Maryland and Florida.

What was different about New York City? For one thing, its scope. Not only did it ban therapy for adults (not just minors), but it also barred any such assistance “offered or provided to consumers for a fee,” regardless of whether the individual is a licensed mental health provider. Rather than facing a professional sanction such as the loss of a license, violators could be fined up to $10,000.

Although the Supreme Court has not yet heard a challenge to therapy bans, it has not been silent about them. In the 2018 case of NIFLA v. Becerra, the court struck down a California law that essentially required pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions, ruling the law violated the centers’ First Amendment free speech rights. California had defended the law (as they defended their therapy ban for minors in a case called Pickup v. Brown) by arguing that certain kinds of “professional speech” do not have the same First Amendment protections. Justice Thomas rejected that view in his majority opinion in the NIFLA case:

Some Courts of Appeals have recognized “profes­sional speech” as a separate category of speech that is subject to different rules. See, e.g., … Pickup v. Brown, 740 F. 3d 1208, 1227–1229 (CA9 2014) … . These courts define “professionals” as indi­viduals who provide personalized services to clients and who are subject to “a generally applicable licensing and regulatory regime.” … Pickupsupra, at 1230. “Professional speech” is then defined as any speech by these individuals that is based on “[their] expert knowledge and judgment,” or that is “within the confines of [the] professional relationship,” Pickupsupra, at 1228. So defined, these courts except professional speech from the rule that content-based regulations of speech are subject to strict scru­tiny. See  … Pickupsupra, at 1053– 1056 … .

But this Court has not recognized “professional speech” as a separate category of speech. Speech is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by “professionals.” This Court has “been reluctant to mark off new categories of speech for diminished constitutional protection.” And it has been especially reluctant to “exemp[t] a category of speech from the normal prohibition on content-based restrictions.” This Court’s prece­dents do not permit governments to impose content-based restrictions on speech without “‘persuasive evidence … of a long (if heretofore unrecognized) tradition’” to that effect.

This Court’s precedents do not recognize such a tradi­tion for a category called “professional speech.”

I wrote about the implications of this for therapy bans in a blog post in July 2018, “Will the Supreme Court Save Sexual Orientation Change Efforts?” It appears that some of the leaders of the LGBT movement may have come around to the same realization.

This is yet another illustration of the fact that elections—and judicial nominations—have consequences.

BREAKING NEWS: Vice President Pence Revealed to Be Conservative!

by Peter Sprigg

September 13, 2019

News broke today that in 1993, Vice President Mike Pence—then with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a conservative think tank—opposed an effort to add “sexual orientation” as a protected category in a Lafayette, Indiana human relations ordinance.

The biggest surprise here may be that anyone found this discovery—in an old issue of the Lafayette Journal and Courier—to be the least bit newsworthy.

After all, even in 2019, after decades of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activism, most of the country—28 of the 50 states, plus the U.S. Congress—has rejected the idea that “sexual orientation” should be treated as the equivalent of race under non-discrimination laws involving employment and public accommodations.

Pence said in 1993, “It represents a very bad move in public policy”—and 26 years later, most of the country agrees.

Pence added, “It opens up from a legal standpoint … a Pandora’s Box of legal rights and legal difficulties once you identify homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority.” The use of the phrase “discrete and insular minority”—drawn from a 1938 Supreme Court decision—showed a sophisticated understanding of civil rights law on the part of Pence, who is himself a lawyer.

Can anyone really deny that the LGBT rights movement has led to “legal rights” (such as same-sex civil “marriage”) and “legal difficulties” (such as lawsuits against wedding vendors to compel speech the vendors disagree with) that might not have been obvious in 1993? This was a prescient, and entirely accurate, forecast.

Pence noted—again, correctly—a key factor historically in whether certain minority groups have been protected by “strict scrutiny” from the courts or by legislation. “Up to this point,” Pence told the paper, “our legal tradition has drawn a line over those things. I do not choose whether I am a black American . . .”

In other words, the characteristics which have merited the special protection of non-discrimination laws have usually been those which are inborn, involuntary, immutable, or innocuous. Those criteria apply to race and sex in a way they do not to “sexual orientation.” In the article, a Purdue political science professor made the same point—“that equating the path of sexual orientation ordinances with the civil rights movement, or to a lesser extent women’s rights, is misleading.”

A few of the quotes attributed to Pence could have used greater elaboration. For example, he is quoted as saying that “homosexuality at a very minimum is a choice by the individual.” LGBT activists insist, with reason, that most people do not choose to experience same-sex attractions. (This does not mean, however, that such attractions are innate. A recent study of the connections between genetics and homosexual conduct has disproved the claim, in an article to which CNN linked, that “homosexuality is largely determined by heredity.”)

Pence’s remarks seem to reflect what I have elsewhere referred to as the “homosexual conduct paradigm,” within which the word “homosexuality” is primarily a reference to homosexual conduct. Such conduct, along with self-identifying as gay or lesbian, clearly is a choice.

Pence is also quoted as saying, “Once you identify homosexuals as a … minority, then by definition they would need to be afforded constitutional protection.” Of course, homosexuals have, and have always had, the same rights under the U.S. Constitution that every other American has—rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. I’m sure that Vice President Pence would agree.

The constitutional question, however, is whether laws perceived as having some impact based on “sexual orientation” must be subjected to “heightened scrutiny”—rather than just a “rational basis” test—when analyzed under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Pence was right in forecasting that enshrining sexual orientation as a protected category in statutory law would have an impact on how courts would view it from a constitutional perspective—and might distort that view in cases like the one ordering a redefinition of marriage.

Pence also told the paper that the effort in Lafayette was part of “a grassroots-generated movement for recognition of homosexual rights …” This is no conspiracy theory—it was a simple and accurate statement that the push for such legislation was part of a movement active at both the national and local levels. Pence said, “I suspect [homosexual rights] will be one of the biggest issues of the ‘90’s”—which was true, and has continued to be true in the decades since.

Most of the arguments Pence offered in 1993 are the same arguments that we at Family Research Council and other social conservatives make today in opposing radical LGBT rights legislation like the proposed federal Equality Act.

What would be news is if Mike Pence had ever taken any other position.

The Real “Fairness for All” is Freedom from Government Coercion

by Peter Sprigg

September 12, 2019

Concerns about religious liberty are one of the chief obstacles to passage of “non-discrimination” laws that would make “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) into protected categories at the local, state, and federal level. Only 20 of the 50 states have enacted SOGI protections for both employment and public accommodations, and a comprehensive (and radical) federal bill, the Equality Act (H.R. 5), has stalled in the Senate since its passage in May by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat who voted for the Equality Act, recently told that state’s Deseret News that he thinks the bill “still needs work”—and he supports a so-called “compromise” called “Fairness for All.” The theory is that both “LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights” and “religious liberty” could be protected by enacting a single bill that includes both SOGI protections and religious exemptions.

The model for “Fairness for All” proposals at the federal level is the “Utah compromise” that was adopted by that state’s legislature in 2015. It added SOGI protections to the state’s nondiscrimination laws regarding employment and housing (public accommodations were omitted), while creating exemptions for religious non-profit organizations and protections for some employee speech.

Unique factors in Utah—notably, the power and influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which endorsed the “compromise”—make it doubtful whether this approach could be replicated elsewhere. LGBT groups at the national level seem determined to press forward the existing Equality Act, which contains no religious liberty protections and explicitly strips away those that might be asserted under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Nevertheless, because some may be tempted to believe that such a “compromise” provides a “win-win” solution in the clash between LGBT rights and religious liberty, it is important to reiterate why we believe this would be a serious mistake.

First, the fundamental presumption behind “Fairness for All” is that there is a balance or symmetry between “rights” or “protections” for people who identify as LGBT and “rights” or “protections” for people of faith. This is a fallacy. The “free exercise” of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but there is no provision of the Constitution that references sexual orientation or gender identity.

The fundamental rights found in the U.S. Constitution—such as freedom of speech and the press and the free exercise of religion—do not place any limits on the actions of private individuals and organizations; on the contrary, they protect such actions against interference by the government. “Civil rights” laws that bar discrimination in employment and public accommodations, however, do not merely limit the government; they place a restriction upon the action of private entities (such as small businesses) in carrying out their private activity.

There is a place for non-discrimination laws (especially regarding characteristics that are clearly inborn, involuntary, and immutable, such as race). However, the burden of proof in every case must rest on those who seek to increase the number of categories or characteristics protected under such laws. That’s because the extension of laws against private discrimination is less a “win-win situation” than a “zero-sum” game. When one (such as an employment applicant) wins more protection, another (the employer) actually loses a corresponding measure of freedom.

The most publicized cases highlighting the clash between LGBT non-discrimination laws and religious liberty in recent years have involved businesses in the wedding industry that are owned and operated by Christians who prefer not to participate in the celebration of same-sex weddings. (Although one such business, Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, won an important decision at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, the decision was on narrow grounds and did not settle this area of the law.) It is not clear that religious liberty protections in any proposed compromise legislation would protect these businesses.

The wedding industry cases are by no means the only context in which this conflict arises, however. There have been cases challenging the right of Christian adoption agencies to decline to place children with same-sex couples; cases where Christian counseling students were punished for declining to affirm and support homosexual relationships; and cases in which Christian employees of government agencies were fired for privately expressing disapproval of  homosexual conduct. It is not clear that any of them would be protected by such “Fairness for All” proposals.

Further, “gender identity” protections would undermine the rights of organizations and businesses to set dress and grooming standards or have separate private spaces (e.g., in bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, dormitories, etc.) for biological men and women. These rights stand ready to be compromised by “Fairness for All” proposals.

Family Research Council believes that combining religious liberty and special privileges for sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) is unsustainable, for three primary reasons.

1)      It is wrong, in principle, to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, because they are unlike historically protected categories such as race. Historically, protections were reserved for characteristics that are inborn, involuntary, immutable, and innocuous, such as race, and/or in the U.S. Constitution (such as religion). None of these criteria apply to the choice to engage in homosexual conduct or the choice to present one’s self as the opposite of one’s biological sex.

2)      There is no religious exemption that would be acceptable to LGBT activists and would also be adequate to fully protect against all the likely threats to religious freedom.

3)      Non-discrimination laws always implicate moral beliefs. They send the message that it is morally wrong to disapprove of homosexual or transgender conduct. For such laws to be endorsed by citizens who believe that it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual or transgender conduct is a logical contradiction.

What would truly reflect “Fairness for All” would be to reject SOGI laws containing special privileges, and allow real religious liberty—the freedom to hold to one’s personal beliefs and to act on them without government interference or coercion.

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