Bill Seeks to Limit Counseling Against Gay Attraction; Are Parents Next Target?

Sacramento, CA – An unusual assortment of groups are beginning to express alarm over a bill moving through the California legislature that has sweeping implications for both free speech and family rights.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, is not mincing words. “I can honestly say this is one of the most outrageous, speech-chilling bills we have ever seen in California—and that’s saying a lot,” he said.

The main purpose of the bill, SB 1172, is to limit the ability of psychologists, therapists and other counselors to assist adult or minor clients with sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). SB 1172 flatly bans SOCE for minors—regardless of the parents’ or minors’ wishes—and requires a new consent form for adults containing statements about sexual orientation that many counselors would dispute. The bill then creates significant liability for professionals who proceed with SOCE.

It gets worse, according to PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds, who attended a Senate committee hearing yesterday afternoon to voice PJI’s strong opposition to the bill. “SB 1172 blames those who believe change is possible for gay suicides, guilt, substance abuse, relationship problems, and a host of other ills,” he said. “As if all that were not enough, the bill claims that sexually-confused youth who experience ‘family rejection … face especially serious health risks’ and the state has a ‘compelling interest’ to protect their health. The logical implication from these two assertions is that the state is giving itself the power to take kids away from parents who do not affirm the kids’ sexual confusion.”

PJI attorneys further noted the irony that SB 1172 conspicuously leaves out transgender persons—usually a staple of pro-LGBT legislation—because backers believe gender is changeable, but sexual orientation is not. PJI is urging concerned citizens to call their state Senators to demand “No” votes on SB 1172.

The compelled speech and speech restrictions in SB 1172 are so extraordinary that even the California Psychological Association—which normally embraces LGBT rights—is opposed to the bill in its current form. Nevertheless, SB 1172 sailed through its first committee hearing yesterday on a 5-3 vote with few comments from the senators. The bill is being carried by Sen. Ted Lieu and is sponsored by Equality California.