California Considers Legislation Making it a Crime to Counsel Children Not to Be Homosexual

Pete Winn | May 9, 2012 | 10:09pm EDT
Font Size

(AP Photo)

- Conservative pro-family groups in California are making preparations to challenge what they call a “dangerous” bill banning "reparative therapy" for teens that is on a fast track through the California State Senate.

California Senate Bill 1172 would make it illegal for therapists, psychologists, counselors and parents to engage in any kind of “sexual orientation change efforts” against children 18 and younger.

Violators could be subject to arrest, fines, possible jail time.

The bill, which passed out of a legislative committee Tuesday on a 5-3 vote, would also require adults to sign a consent form before they could seek therapy or counseling to change their sexual orientation.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute of Sacramento, Calif., pledges to challenge the constitutionality of the measure in the courts, if it passes the Legislature.

“This legislation is a grotesque violation of the rights of parents over their children,” said Dacus, who testified against the bill Tuesday.

He said the bill, which targets reparative therapy, could also lead to parents losing custody of their children to the state if they seek therapy for their youngsters.

“It specifically prohibits any child under the age of 18 who struggles with homosexuality from getting any kind of professional counseling at all, period,” Dacus told

“In fact, it also subjects parents to possibly having their children permanently removed from them if it is found that the parents were not accepting of a child’s perception of being homosexual and the parents want the child to get counseling.”

“If the parents are not totally accepting of this sexual orientation, then that is deemed abuse and gives the government grounds to permanently take the child from the parents.

The sponsor, Sen. Ted W. Lieu (D-Carson), said his bill helps raise public awareness of “bogus” and “unethical” therapies by mental-health providers who promise to help change a person’s sexual orientation.

“Under the guise of a California license, some therapists are taking advantage of vulnerable people by pushing dangerous sexual orientation-change efforts,” Lieu said Tuesday after the bill passed out of the California Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.

“These bogus efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish.  This is junk science and it must stop.”

The bill declares that “there is no evidence that any kind of psychotherapy can cause sexual orientation change.”

It also states that sexual orientation change efforts “pose critical health risks” to lesbian, gay and bisexual people, including: “confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.”

Most counseling profession organizations in the state -- including the California Psychological Association, the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy -- oppose the bill as written, dubbing it an unwarranted intrusion.

"The statutory ban on types of therapy is not the venue and there is very little precedent in state law to make an outright ban on a specific type of therapy," the CPA said in written testimony on the bill.

“The fact that this bill is opposed by many of the professional organizations that normally are quite liberal on homosexuality, I think, indicates how extreme this legislation is,” said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for cultural studies at the Family Research Council.

“It really flies in the face of a fundamental ethical principle within the counseling profession, which is – the autonomy of the client in determining the goals for treatment,” he said.

“In any other context, other than homosexuality, that principle would be considered sacrosanct. But somehow these state legislators feel that they can run roughshod over it when it comes to people who experience unwanted same-sex attractions,” Sprigg told

Peter LaBarbera, executive director of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, said the bill’s passage would be “a tragedy.”

“Not all ex-gays go through reparative therapy,” LaBarbera said. “There are many people who have a religious experience, they change through Christ. This is not the only way that people change. But this is a way that some people have found help. And it’s an outrage that California is now stepping in and making it more and more difficult to get this help.”

The National Association on Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which opposes the bill, did not provide comment to for this story.

The bill will now go for a vote by the full California Senate.

mrc merch