Recognizing the Harm of ‘Conversion Therapy’
The state Legislature wrapped up its lawmaking session in Sacramento this week, sending Gov. Jerry Brown dozens of bills, regulating hunters, farmers, used-car dealers.
But one bill in particular piqued my interest. It would limit the kind of therapy that counselors can offer to gay children.
And it would make California — depending on your perspective — either a national leader in protecting gay and lesbian kids, or a symbol of nitpicky “nanny state” intrusion.
If it becomes law, California will be the only state in the nation that forbids mental health professionals from trying to convert young patients from gay or lesbian to straight.
The bill, written by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), had rough sledding early on. It was opposed by a coalition of groups representing psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists and counselors, who worried that its language and sanctions would “inhibit and prevent attempts by therapists to legitimately explore sexual identity and gender concerns.”
But months of negotiations eased some of its restrictions and referred sanctions to state licensing boards. Now mental health professionals are supportive.
“It’s very hard to take psychological concepts and turn them into a piece of legislation,” said Jo Linder-Crow, executive director of the California Psychological Assn.
“But what this bill is saying is that you can’t, if you are a mental health professional, say to a parent, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll help make your kid straight.’”
Not even if the parent asks you to. Or if a therapist’s own bias or agenda suggests that gay-to-straight might work.