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California Law Forbids Parents From Changing Child's Sexual Orientation

In a move that is causing outrage across the nation, the state of California is on the verge of passing a law that will outlaw all sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for minors, making it illegal for even parents to seek treatment for their child.

Fox News is reporting that the law was sponsored by a coalition of gay rights groups and introduced by State Sen. Ted W. Lieu (D-Redondo Beach).  Lieu based his support for the ban on a news report he saw that documented the alleged harm done to minors by reparative therapy. He also cited controversial studies from the American Psychological Association (APA) which found that SOCE therapy could lead to feelings of depression, feelings of shame, self-loathing, drug abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, anger, withdrawal and in some cases, even attempted suicide in minor children, if those same-sex attractions continue to persist.

However, opponents of the new law, such as therapist David Pickup of Glendale California who underwent successful SOCE treatment himself and now uses it to treat patients, said the  APA studies were based only on "anecdotal evidence." In his experience the therapy works in varying degrees on "95 percent" of the people he treats. He vehemently opposes the new law, calling it a "violation of parental rights," and said it would have a "chilling effect" on the ability of therapists to treat their patients.

Criticisms such as his are what prompted some amendments to the bill, which originally called for a ban on all SOCE treatment. A coalition of the state's four largest mental health associations: the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), California Psychiatric Association, California Psychological Association and the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (CALPCC), joined together to pressure lawmakers to clarify the definition of SOCE. Originally, it was so broad that it would have made it illegal for minors to discuss even legitimate fears and concerns about their sexual identity with therapists.

They were also successful in removing a provision that would have subjected mental health providers to damage claims and civil suits by former patients and their family members.

In its present form, however, the bill still bans SOCE treatment for minors regardless of their parent's desires and is being criticized by legal experts for violating the constitutional rights of patients as well as parents. 

"This is really a serious violation of the constitutional rights of patients and counselors, a violation of privacy and an outright attack on the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a public interest law firm.

Matt McReynolds, staff attorney for the PJI, is promising to fight passage of the bill.

"As long as this bill threatens to shame patients and silence counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, we will vigorously oppose it," McReynolds told Fox News. "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."

Both state houses will have to agree on the final language of the bill before it can be sent to Governor Jerry Brown (D) for signature. Thus far, the governor has given no indication about whether or not he intends to sign it into law.

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