(Sacramento) The California Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee today approved on a 5-2 vote Senate Bill 1172, which would ban mental health professionals from subjecting minors to a dangerous and emotionally-scarring practice of trying to change their sexual orientation. Authored by Senator Ted Lieu, the bill is co-sponsored by Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Mental Health America of Northern California, Gaylesta, and Lambda Legal. Previously approved in the California Senate, it now heads to the floor for a full vote of the Assembly.
Sexual orientation change efforts pose critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. For minors, who are often subjected to these practices at the insistence of misled parents who either don't know or don't believe that the practice is harmful, the risks of long-term mental and physical health consequences are particularly severe.
Ryan Kendall, a survivor of the practice who testified in the Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8, described his experience before the committee today: “As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called conversion therapy destroyed my life and tore apart my family. In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family. At the age of 16, I had lost everything. My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide. For the next decade I struggled with depression, periods of homelessness, and drug abuse.”
Said Equality California Board President Clarissa Filgioun: “Too many young people have taken their own lives or suffered lifelong harm after being told, falsely, by a therapist or counselor that who they are and who they love is wrong, sick or the result of personal or moral failure. It's outrageous that state licensed therapists in California continue engage in this discredited, damaging and discriminatory practice that has been uniformly rejected by medical science and it's time for the legislature to put a stop to this psychological abuse.”
Added NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell: “The time is long overdue for the legislature to take action against the psychological abuse of young people perpetrated by so-called 'reparative therapists.' These practices have no basis in science or medicine, but the harms they inflict on young people are all too real – anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior. This bill will quite literally save lives. California youth deserve protection from shame and stigmatization disguised as therapy.”
Senate Bill 1172 is supported by the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, California Division. In addition, four professional associations that previously opposed the bill, including the California Psychological Association, the California Psychiatric Association, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the California Association of Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, withdrew their opposition during today's hearing based on agreed upon amendments that will be made on the Assembly floor.
To learn more about Equality California-sponsored legislation, visit, www.eqca.org/legislation.