Lights out on liberty: The left’s war on free speech May 4, 2018 on Commentary, Opinion By Rep. Larry Lockman Freedom of speech took a beating at the Statehouse the week before last, to the applause of Democrat legislative leaders and a majority of the Maine House of Representatives. The Orwellian spectacle that unfolded on the floor of the House should dispel any lingering doubt that leftist politicians are hell-bent on silencing their adversaries in America’s escalating culture war. The House was debating a proposed gag order on counselors and therapists who treat minor children for mental health issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation. Under the proposed statute (LD 912), therapists would not be allowed to offer any counseling that deviates from the prevailing progressive orthodoxy on these matters. The enlightened ones have decreed that sexual orientation is innate, fixed at birth and immutable. On the other hand, so-called “gender identity” is fluid to the point that an individual can change it by an act of the will. Therapists who treat minor children will be required to walk a tightrope, and be careful not to say anything that contradicts secular progressive dogma as enshrined in the proposed statute. For instance, a therapist treating an 8-year-old boy who believes he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body would be in legal jeopardy if the therapist advised the patient against puberty-blocking drugs and sex-change surgery. Licensed counselors will have to keep their professional opinions to themselves if they are even mildly skeptical of the notion that an 8-year-old is capable of making informed decisions about transgender issues. Violators of the gag order would be subject to being stripped of their license to practice. In effect, politicians in Augusta are poised to unleash the Thought Police to monitor private conversations between therapists and patients. The good news is that the House and Senate couldn’t agree on which version of the bill to enact, so LD 912 died in non-concurrence on the last day of the session. But it’s a safe bet it will be back when the next Legislature convenes in January. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), claims to have been traumatized as a 19-year-old gay college student when an administrator gave him a book to read. “Beyond Gay” by David Morrison is an autobiographical account of a gay activist who gave up the gay lifestyle and embraced the Catholic faith. Fecteau claimed in his floor speech that reading a review of Morrison’s book was “a gut punch” that triggered personal “fear and self-loathing.” So now Fecteau wants to make it illegal for a therapist to recommend Morrison’s book to a 17-year-old patient who self-identifies as gay. In fact, Fecteau has decreed that any talk therapy that even suggests a minor might want to consider the same path followed by David Morrison is, in Fecteau’s words, “harmful and at worst deadly.” As I listened to Rep. Fecteau’s floor speech, I was reminded of communist-turned-conservative author David Horowitz’s assessment of the leftist mindset: “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” Fecteau’s bill mandates that licensed professionals in Maine play “let’s pretend,” much like schoolchildren in California are being trained to do. As part of transgender instruction at Rocklin Academy in Rocklin, Calif., a male kindergartner was reintroduced to classmates as a girl. Later that morning, a first-grader at the school was sent to the principal’s office after she called the student by his given name on the playground — apparently unaware that the 5-year-old had changed his gender identity. The floor debate also reminded me of what’s happening right now in New York City, and I wondered how long it will be before Maine enacts similar policies here. Individuals living in New York City can choose from a minimum of 31 different gender identities, many of which allow them to fluctuate between some version or combination of male or female identities. Businesses that don’t respect and accommodate an individual’s chosen gender identity risk incurring fines up to a quarter of a million dollars under rules implemented by the city’s Commission on Human Rights. Make no mistake: Fecteau’s bill, and similar legislation pending across the country, are part of a much larger campaign to shut down reality-based free speech. Worse still, the speech nannies leading this campaign have been so emboldened by their recent successes that they have upped the ante. Now they want to strip dissenters of their ability to make a living if they dare violate leftist speech codes. In the modern era, heretics won’t be burned at the stake. But they will be muzzled, publicly shamed and driven to the poor house. Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst) is serving his third term in the Maine House of Representatives, District 137, and serves on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. He may be reached at [email protected].