On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it had declined to hear Pickup v Brown and Welch v Brown, the court challenges to California’s ban on reparative therapy for minors. The decision means that the ban, which was signed into law by Governor Brown as Senate Bill 1172 in September 2012, will finally be allowed to take effect. Any California therapist who attempts to change the sexual orientation of a minor through therapy can have action taken against their license or registration.
For AAMFT-California, this important victory is the culmination of more than two years of hard work. We wrote some of the bill’s language, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with NASW-CA as the first mental health professional organizations to support the bill (California’s Psychologists and Psychiatrists later joined us), and when it was challenged in court, we were the lead cosigner on this amicus brief arguing that the law should be allowed to take effect. AAMFT-CA representatives spent hundreds of hours working directly with Senator Ted Lieu and his staff, visiting the Governor’s office, and consulting with other stakeholders, to push for the bill’s passage. Often, our representatives were the only clinicians in rooms full of lawyers and lobbyists. This allowed us to bring a uniquely informed perspective to discussions of the bill’s language and implications.
Reparative therapy, also known as “conversion therapy” or “ex-gay therapy,” involves attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation through psychotherapy. Its use has been discouraged by all the major mental health organizations, and it is considered particularly dangerous for minors, many of whom report lasting negative effects. This report from the American Psychological Association is the most thorough summary of the science surrounding reparative therapy and its risk of harm.
Under SB1172, any mental health professional in California may have action taken against their license or registration if they engage in “sexual orientation change efforts” with anyone under the age of 18.
Written by Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD chairs the AAMFT-CA Legislative and Advocacy Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.