Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council, spent the last two nights testifying in opposition to a proposed municipal ordinance in Anchorage, Alaska, No. AO 202-65, which would make it unlawful for any professional counselor to engage in sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts (SOCE or GICE) with a patient who is a minor.
Sprigg delivered prepared testimony on Tuesday, Aug. 25. After that, he was invited by Assembly Member Jamie Allard to return as an expert witness the next night, when the Assembly took up proposed amendments and voted on final passage.
The Anchorage Assembly had postponed hearing the ordinance at its July 28 meeting. In the Aug. 26 hearing, Sprigg warned that similar bills had been struck down in Tampa, Florida and repealed in New York City in the face of successful lawsuits against them. Despite Sprigg having refuted many of the key arguments used by sponsors, the Assembly passed the ordinance late Wednesday by a vote of 9-2.
In his prepared testimony, Sprigg told members of the Anchorage Assembly (the municipal legislative body) that although sponsors claim that such efforts are ineffective and harmful, “Neither of these assertions is supported by high-quality scientific evidence.”
“In fact, evidence shows that all the elements of sexual orientation–sexual attractions, behaviors, and self-identification–are subject to change over time,” Sprigg testified. In addition, “at least six significant surveys or studies in the last 20 years . . . have shown that therapy or counseling can be effective in helping clients achieve their personal goals of change in sexual orientation.”
The only study that “met the scientific gold standard of surveying subjects before therapy and again during and after therapy,” and which used “standardized measures of psychological distress,” was one which “showed most subjects experienced psychological improvement–not harm.”
Sprigg also pointed out the tragic irony of the proposed ordinance’s treatment of gender identity–under which “it would be legal to interrupt normal physical development with puberty-blocking or cross-sex hormones, and to perform surgeries that mutilate and/or sterilize a young person for life. . . . But it would be illegal for a therapist to simply talk with that young person in a way that might help him or her to become more comfortable with the body he or she was born with.”
Due to coronavirus restrictions, the Anchorage Assembly is currently not allowing members of the public to attend its meetings in person. Sprigg therefore delivered his testimony by telephone from his home in the Washington, D.C. area. On Wednesday night, Sprigg remained on the phone with the Assembly for nearly three hours, answering questions about the legislation and proposed amendments whenever they were raised.
Last month, Sprigg also spoke to the Anchorage Baptist Temple by video and to a meeting of Anchorage pastors via a Zoom call to raise concerns and educate them about the ordinance.