A new law that prohibits California parents from trying to "cure" minors' same-sex attraction will soon pass from legislature to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. Senate Bill 1172, will prohibit all sexual orientation change effort (SOCE) treatment for minors.
Fox News reports that the law, expected to be signed in September, was sponsored by a coalition of gay rights groups led by California Equality. It was introduced by State Sen. Ted W. Lieu (D-Redondo Beach). Lieu said that his decision to introduce the bill was influenced by a news report he saw in 2011. He said: "The story detailed the harmful impact on vulnerable minors of this kind of supposed reparative therapy. So when California Equality approached me about introducing a bill to ban that kind of therapy for minors, I jumped at the chance."
Lieu cites studies by the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force that say SOCE therapy could lead to depression, feelings of shame, self-loathing, drug abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, anger, withdrawal and in some extreme cases attempted suicide.
The new bill, the first of its kind in the US, has sparked a heated debate about whether homosexuality could be considered a mental health disorder. Conservative groups, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), oppose the bill, saying it infringes on parents' rights and the activity of mental health professionals. Fox News reports that David Pickup, a therapist and member of NARTH, who describes himself as "being a heterosexual man with a homosexual challenge," said he went through a successful SOCE treatment and now only experiences sexual feelings for men "once in a blue moon."
Matt McReynolds, staff attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute based in Sacramento, criticized the law, saying it is unconstitutional because it "prohibits speech… violates privacy and personal autonomy rights, meddles in theological disputes, clashes with other laws and creates significant unintended consequences." He added: "As long as this bill threatens to shame patients and silence counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, we will vigorously oppose it. 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."
But Lieu, responding to criticism that the law is a violation of the constitutional rights of patients and counselors, said the bill addresses a health issue and protects the health, welfare and rights of minors. He said: "We intervene all the time to restrict the rights of individuals and parents regarding health issues. We pass laws saying minors can't buy tobacco products; anyone under 21 can't legally drink alcohol and we force parents to put their very young children into car seats while they're driving."