October 1, 2012 ( – A bill that was described as a deliberate “attack on parental rights” by its sponsor has been signed into law in California. On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill banning sexual orientation change therapy for minors. It is set to go into effect on January 1, 2013. 

In response, the pro-family law firm Liberty Counsel has said it is filing a lawsuit on behalf of counselors, parents and their minor children, and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) against the legislation.

In signing the bill, Gov. Brown said that sexual orientation change therapy “will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” This summer in response to critics who said the bill was an attack on parents rights, the bill’s sponsor State Senator Ted Lieu said: “The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill, because we don’t want to let parents harm their children.”

“No one should stand idly by while children are being psychological abused, and anyone who forces a child to try to change their sexual orientation must understand this is unacceptable,” Lieu said in a statement released Sunday.


However, critics argue that in passing the bill, the government has overstepped its role.

“Your bill will turn California into a nanny state by usurping the civil rights of parents who support their child’s right to receive therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions, especially when that child has been sexually molested. This smacks of fascism and ex-gay bashing,” the California-based group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays wrote in an open letter to Lieu in August.

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, agrees. “The California governor and legislature are putting their own preconceived notions and political ideology ahead of children and their rights to get access to counseling that meets their needs,” he said this week.

“A number of minors who have struggled with same-sex attraction have been able to reduce or eliminate the stress and conflicts in their lives by receiving counseling of their choice which best meets their needs and religious convictions,” said Staver.

The law defines “sexual orientation change efforts” as any practice that is designed to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. Critics such as Staver say such broad language will prohibit any counseling that does not affirm and encourage experimentation with or acceptance of same-sex attractions, regardless of whether those feelings and attractions are unwanted by the counselee.

While the bill makes it an ethical violation for any counselor or therapist to engage in it, opponents have argued that if the counselor does not provide the client with such counseling, or at least a referral, upon request, the counselor will also violate their licensing ethical code.

“We are filing on behalf of mental health professionals who find themselves in a catch-22,” Staver said. 

“This law undermines parental rights,” Staver added. “Mental health decisions should be left to the patient, the parents, and the counselors – not to the government to license one viewpoint.”