Last Thursday, Sept. 13, journalist Rex Wocker asked a very pertinent question: ‚ÄúSo if Jerry Brown already has decided that sexual orientation can’t be changed, why does he apparently still need lobbying on SB 1172 (and he apparently does).‚ÄĚ Rex was referring to the bill now on Gov. Brown‚Äôs desk that would prohibit state-licensed therapists from practicing junk science by trying to ‚Äúchange‚ÄĚ the sexual orientation or gender identity of a young patient. The bill‚Äôs sponsor, State Sen. Ted Lieu, and LGBT groups consider this practice child abuse. PLEASE ASK GOV. BROWN TO SIGN SB 1172 VIA HIS TWITTER ACCOUNT JerryBrownGov.
Geoff Kors, who is now working on SB 1172 and other such issues for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, responded to Rex ‚Äď an email that which was later distributed:
Rex, this is a follow-up letter to Governor Brown that was just sent to him regarding why it is so important that he sign SB 1172. The letter both lays out the case for signing but also responds to arguments against the bill that some people have raised. The letter — and NCLR’s action alert — focus on a number of things including the fact that the State of California is giving licenses to the people who engage in this unconscionable practice and therefore the State needs to act to stop the practice. In addition, the California Legislature, the California Supreme Court, the Federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit in upholding the Federal District Court decision in Perry have all found sexual orientation to be an immutable characteristic. If it is immutable, then the state shouldn’t be licensing individuals who are saying they can change this immutable characteristic and who take money from the public to engage in this discredited practice. In fact, the Governor has taken the position that sexual orientation is immutable in the brief he filed as Attorney General in the Prop 8 case before the California Supreme Court.
The haters have ratcheted up the noise on this and are working hard to get their folks to call, email and tweet the Governor. We need to continue the pressure from our side.
Thanks for all of your help on this bill.
Here‚Äôs the link to letter to which Kors refers. Here’s an excerpt – the section involving parental rights about which conservatives and the Religious Right are fuming:
5. This legislation does not infringe on parental rights.
SB 1172 also does not interfere with parental rights and in fact does not regulate parents in any way. SB 1172 is narrowly targeted at ‚Äúmental health providers,‚ÄĚ and simply prohibits those providers from subjecting children to dangerous and discredited practices. The legislation is aimed at state-licensed therapists, not parents. Parents remain free to tell their children whatever they wish about sexual orientation.
SB 1172 is similar to other laws that restrict commercial products or services to which children may be exposed, or require parents to take actions necessary to protect the health and safety of their children. For example, parents do not have the right to give their children illegal drugs, allow their children to ride in a car without a seat belt, or make medical choices that are harmful to their children. In Walker v. Superior Court, 47 Cal. 3d 112 (1989), the California Supreme Court ruled that a Christian Scientist mother whose four-year-old daughter died of meningitis after being treated with prayer rather than medical care could be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangerment. See also Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) (upholding a law compelling the vaccination of children for communicable diseases in the face of parental religious objections).
SB 1172 ‚Äúfurthers an interest of unparalleled significance: the protection of the very lives of California‚Äôs children, upon whose ‚Äėhealthy, well-rounded growth . . . into full maturity as citizens‚Äô our ‚Äėdemocratic society rests, for its continuance . . .‚Äô‚ÄĚ Walker, 47 Cal. 3d at 139 (quoting Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 168 (1944)). As the Supreme Court stated in Prince:
¬†¬†¬†¬† Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.
321 U.S. at 170 (rejecting a free-exercise claim asserted by parents whose religious beliefs required that their children sell religious tracts in violation of child labor laws). Parents simply do not have the right to subject their children to serious harms.13
Lastly, it is important to note that conversion therapy harms not just the patient but the public as well. These practices cause serious, lasting harm to many California youth and also reinforce stigma and justify prejudice against the LGBT community. California has made great strides to advance the rights of all Californians, regardless of sexual orientation. SB 1172 is another step ‚ÄĒ and a critical one ‚ÄĒ in the right direction.
Thank you for taking the time to review this important legislation, which has the strong support not only of the LGBT community, but of leading mental health organizations in this state, who are strongly urging California to protect youth from these discredited practices. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have more questions.
13.¬† Parents also do not have a constitutionally protected right to choose a particular type of treatment or a particular provider. In fact, the Ninth Circuit has specifically held that ‚Äúa patient does not have a constitutional right to obtain a particular type of treatment or to obtain treatment from a particular provider if the government has reasonably prohibited that type of treatment or provider.‚ÄĚ NAAP, 228 F.3d at 1050 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).