Leelah Alcorn had a troubling, difficult youth. Her experience as a transgender person in a non-accepting family put her through some tough times. She underwent what is colloquially called “conversion therapy,” a process wherein psychologists attempted to deprogram the transgender part of her identity. After years of torment and misery, she finally reached a place where she could not handle life anymore. She killed herself, leaving her thoughts behind a very public way, posting her suicide note for the world to see.

Reacting to her suicide, people in the LGBT community across America have adopted a campaign called Leelah’s Law. The petition, created on whitehouse.gov, seeks to put an end to conversion therapy through the adoption of legislation. The petition’s creators claim that the therapy caused Leelah’s death- an interesting fact, given that she killed herself. Culpability is not easy to determine in this instance: only Leelah knew just how much her therapy had a negative impact on her life. She had to deal with parents who didn’t accept her for who she was; she had to accept friends who weren’t there for her when she wanted them to be; she had to accept time continuing to pass along while her body grew ever more male, though she felt herself to be innately female. All of these things combined led her to kill herself.

Proponents of Leelah’s Law- who themselves may or may not be American citizens seeking to change American law- have taken the attitude that legislation can fix all of society’s ills. It is not generally understood that laws are enforced and interpreted in an arbitrary manner based on the personal preferences of police officers, court officials, and bureaucrats. For example: even though the federal minimum wage in America is set at 7.25 an hour, waitresses are paid significantly less than this. Restaurant owners are allowed to break a law intended to help people make money to pay their bills. Similarly, as with any law, Leelah’s Law, when written up and signed, will more than likely not be a clear cut-and-dry affair.

Government bills are constructed to be very lengthy in an attempt to define everything in minute detail. Reams upon reams of paper are consumed just explaining what it is that is supposed to banned. Gone are the days when the government’s founding principles could be explained on a document a few pages long, easily understandable and available to all. In order for Leelah’s Law to achieve its intended purpose, it must remove from psychiatry the practice of conversion therapy. Though that sounds simple enough, the government’s approach to the it will likely not be simple at all.

Further contingent upon this petition is the assumption that the American Psychological Association is not, nor ever has, done or plans to do anything about therapists causing negative health outcomes such as depression and suicidal ideations. In 1997, the APA passed a resolution urging therapists to respect the individuality of lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients. Though transgender patients aren’t specifically enumerated, it’s clear that the APA, the most influential group of psychologists in America, has been moving towards what Carl Rogers would have called “unconditional positive regard.”

Rather than letting the psychological community address the situation in its own way, petitioners in favor of Leelah’s Law want even further compliance from medical health practitioners, many of whom are burdened by a number of unnecessary laws as it is- one such example being a California state law which presumes the arrogance of defining what conduct is unprofessional. Such laws are enacted upon the presumption that psychologists do not know what is and is not good for their patients. Many years pursuing various degrees, reading textbooks, writing reports, understanding how experiments are conducted, learning about famous (or infamous) psychological cases, all the knowledge and experience handed down from instructor to student does not, according to any law, make a psychologist more responsible on the job. A law is needed to ensure professional conduct.

What is often ignored when such laws are passed is the natural function of marketplace behavior with regard to therapy. The therapist must, of necessity, do the best job he or she can, or soon discover that clients seek to go elsewhere. Though therapy is often expensive, there is always competition between one therapy office and another. Since not all therapists are the same, differentiation will occur between different service providers. The therapists who provide the best service will, in the long run, get more customers. It is in the therapist’s best interest to provide a welcoming, safe environment for anyone and everyone. Failing to do so means less income.

Additionally, the enforcers of such laws are ultimately police officers. Though therapy offices try to comply as much as possible with every law they can, those who don’t comply risk being raided by a swat team. Any law the government enacts is enforced by violence, or the threat of violence. The petition for Leelah’s Law, intended to stop transgender people from having to go through a painful therapy experience, merely puts a gun to the heads of practitioners who may or may not do so. It is an attempt to introduce societal equity by means of coercion.

The law will not stop parents from treating their children badly. It will not stop communities from being backwards. It will not stop bullying from occurring in school. It might result in psychologists from being levied with heavy fines, or facing prison time, over an action that is already being phased out of society. It might result in more court cases, more paperwork for police officers. It might result in psychiatrists having to report exactly what type of therapy they do, in order to assure bureaucracies that they are not doing conversion therapy. It might result in less privacy for the medical community with an increase in rapacious government activity.

Leelah’s Law might even open the door for civil forfeiture for businesses who violate it, causing a witch hunt as law enforcement officials chase down as much stolen plunder as they can.

One result, above all, seems clear. The law will do nothing to change how we as a society think about, feel about, or act towards transgender people as a whole. It will merely assuage the outrage of over one hundred thousand people, all of whom believe that equality can only exist when certain people are granted special privileges.