SB 1172 provisions
Introduced by Sen Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), SB 1172 prohibits a mental health provider, as defined, from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, as defined, with a patient under 18 years of age, regardless of the willingness of a patient, patient’s parent, guardian, conservator, or other person to authorize such efforts. On May 30, 2012, the Senate approved the bill 23-13, after deleting informed consent requirements for adults and possible legal actions against providers.
Lieu said he authored the bill because he heard of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths committing suicide or living in depression after therapists pressured them with guilt to change their sexual orientation.
Asked about Spitzer’s reassessment, Lieu said, “Dr Spitzer was the only person who brought any legitimacy to reparative therapy, so the renouncement of his study helps to indicate that reparative therapy, conversion therapy, and all other forms of sexual orientation change efforts are truly junk science.”
Spitzer told Psychiatric Times that reparative therapy isn’t much used anymore, except by those “who are in some Christian setting.”
The idea of banning a particular kind of psychotherapy did not appeal to him.
“I don’t know how you would enforce a ban on such therapy, since you might not even know about it, and I think it is already adequate to have professional mental health organizations condemning it,” he said.
Spitzer was referring to the APA’s 2000 position statement noting that homosexuality per se is not a diagnosable mental disorder and that in the past 4 decades, “reparative” therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until such research becomes available, the APA recommends that “ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation.”
The Pan American Health Organization took a similar stance recently. The organization’s director, Argentine doctor Mirta Roses Periago commented: “Practices known as ‘reparative therapy’ or ‘conversion therapy’ represent a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people.”
The California Psychiatric Association (CPA) maintains an oppose unless amended position regarding SB 1172.
“The CPA along with the California Psychological Association, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and the California Association of Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors are seeking less broad and more tightly focused, amended language regarding the definition of ‘sexual change orientation effort’ in SB 1172,” said Randall Hagar, the CPA’s Director of Governmental Affairs. “The aim of this amended language would be to reduce—if not eliminate—the possibility of inadvertently inhibiting or having a chilling effect on legitimate conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation between a therapist and patient. Legitimate conversations that would not have as their aim the changing of sexual orientation or which might be based on the prior notion that homosexual orientation is a pathology and/or ought to be changed.”
“The current definition in the bill,” Hagar added, “would potentially cause any therapist who wanted to explore these issues with a patient to have concern about whether those conversations were permitted, and would raise concerns about potentially subjecting a therapist to liability and also perhaps sanctions against his or her license to practice.”
In response, Lieu said, “Their definition of sexual orientation change efforts is limited to only practices that seek to change ‘sexual orientation,’ and does not include practices designed to change the behavioral expression of sexual orientation. We continue to fear that if the definition does not include techniques intended to change the attractions or behavioral expressions associated with a person’s sexual orientation, that children could be severely harmed. By repressing those feelings, like so many practitioners of so-called reparative therapy, a patient can likely see their mental health become worse.”
Jo Linder-Crow, PhD, Executive Director of the California Psychological Association, told Psychiatric Times that a legislation ban against a particular kind of therapy “is frankly not good policy,” and sets a dangerous precedent. She emphasized that licensing boards in the different states are already charged with handling complaints against mental health professionals and initiating disciplinary actions.
While Lieu, the CPA, and other professional organizations seek common ground, the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which supports reparative therapy, called on its supporters to “bombard” Assembly members and urge no votes on the bill, because it runs “roughshod over professional judgment and parental choice.”7
As of press time, the Assembly Rules Committee was expected to assign SB 1172 to a policy-review committee soon, which will probably conduct a hearing in July or August. If approved by that and possibly other committees, the bill would come to a full vote in the Assembly no later than end of session or August 31.