SACRAMENTO, June 5, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A bill gagging therapists from pursuing same-sex attraction therapy with minors dissatisfied with their sexual orientation has passed the California state Senate.
The controversial bill by Democratic State Sen. Ted Lieu was amended for the fifth time before it was approved by state senators 23-13 along party lines. It will now go to the state Assembly.
SB 1172 had initially made it a crime for a mental health professional to conduct sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) with a consensual client “by means of therapeutic deception,” which was defined as “a representation by a psychotherapist that sexual orientation change efforts ... can or will reduce” homosexual conduct or desire. The latest version, which scrapped nearly the entire bill besides initial declarations, kept only the ban on SOCE for minors.
Lawmakers also deleted sweeping liability provisions that would have made it possible for a patient, former patient, deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling to sue a therapist for up to $5,000 with a statute of limitations ranging from five to eight years.
The mental health community remains split on the bill. A coalition representing several mental health professional groups opposed the bill last month as containing an overbroad definition of sexual orientation change efforts. Even after the sweeping amendments, one member says professionals are still not backing SB 1172.
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“The coalition has a position of ‘oppose, unless amended,” Jill Epstein, Executive Director of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), a member of the coalition, told LifeSiteNews.com in an email Tuesday. “We have concerns over the definition of ‘sexual orientation change efforts’ and we continue to work with the author’s office on this matter.”
Even opponents of so-called “conversion therapy” last month blasted the original bill for overreach, and specifically targeted the ban on therapy for minors.
“Legislators have no special insights into psychiatry, nor are they elected for their abilities as parents,” wrote the editors of the Los Angeles Times on May 11. “Frankly, it’s worrisome to have them stepping in to tell therapists what they may or may not say or do to treat patients. ... Those few parents who still are tempted to talk their children out of being gay will learn the error of their ways soon enough — without help from the government.”
The conservative Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has called the bill unconstitutional and is teaming with professionals to highlight the “plethora of legal problems” that remain in SB 1172.
“As long as this bill threatens to shame patients and silence counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, we will vigorously oppose it,” said PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds in a statement. “We cannot afford to let the state invade the counseling room or doctor’s office to dictate what views on sexuality are acceptable and unacceptable.”
The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) said that the bill elicited outrage from “individuals who have overcome unwanted same-sex feelings sparked by childhood sexual abuse.” However, the group noted that “the hundreds of phone calls and emails to California senators by NARTH members and supporters” appeared to bear fruit in the latest revisions.
NARTH President Dr. Christopher Rosik said the vote “marks another triumph of political activism over objective science.”
“The American Psychological Association has observed that there are no studies by which to accurately estimate the effectiveness of sexual orientation change intervention or the prevalence of harm,” he said. “In NARTH’s view, a truly scientific response would call for more and better research to answer these questions, not a legislative ban that runs roughshod over professional judgment and parental choice.”
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