PJI to Senators: Proposed Counseling Ban is Unconstitutional

Sacramento, CA – Attorneys with the Pacific Justice Institute are warning a California Senate committee against banning some types of counseling.

PJI sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week outlining its opposition to SB 1172. Among other things, the bill would prohibit psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists and others from giving any advice to minors that could be considered an effort to “change” their sexual orientation. The ban would apply even if a minor or their parents sought out counseling for that very reason.

“SB 1172 is blatantly unconstitutional,” said PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds, who wrote the letter. “We absolutely cannot allow the government to step into the counseling room or doctor’s office and clamp a hand over the mouth of a professional who is asked by a patient for help with sexual identity issues. Have our legislators completely forgotten the First Amendment? Or the right to privacy?”

In addition to the speech ban for minors, PJI called senators’ attention to a number of other problems with SB 1172. The bill requires a lengthy list of government-approved statements to be read to adult patients exploring their sexual orientation with counselors. The bill blames sexual orientation change efforts for gay substance abuse, suicides, and even relationship problems. The bill declares a heightened state interest in protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual health; and it hints that “family rejection” of a child’s professed sexual orientation would justify state intervention.

“SB 1172 is outrageous, almost unbelievable—and about to become law in California,” noted
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “Now is the time for every Californian to get on the phone to our elected state senators and demand that they stand against this assault on our constitutional freedoms.”

SB 1172 was approved on a 5-3 vote by one Senate committee. It is scheduled for a second vote this coming Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. PJI plans to attend the hearing and is the only pro-family advocacy group actively working to defeat the bill.