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California Passes Ex-Gay Therapy Restrictions

Jim Burroway

August 28th, 2012

The California Assembly today, in a 51-21 vote, approved a significantly scaled-back measure to ban licensed therapists in the state of California from providing Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors under the age of eighteen. The bill must now go back to the Senate to be reconciled with a much broader version of the bill which passed that chamber last May. The scope of the bill was significantly reduced in order to win the approval of several state mental health professional organizations.

When the bill was first introduced into the Senate, there were additional provisions which would have required that adults undergoing SOCE to sign a state-mandated informed consent form, and it would have left therapists open to fines of $$5,000 or “actual damages, or statutory damages” if the client later determined that he or she had been harmed by the therapy or if the therapist had contravened California’s restrictions on SOCE. Due to objections form several mental health organizations, the state-mandated informed consent form was dropped, and the fines were eliminated in favor of a new clause which subjects the licensed therapist “to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.” The bill affects licensed therapists only. It does not affect religious-based ex-gay ministries or unlicensed pastors, counselors or self-described “life coaches.”

Due to the opposition to the original bill by mental health professional organizations, it is expected that the House version of the bill will go back to the Senate for approval rather than having a compromise bill being worked out between the two chambers. After Senate approval, it will then go on to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature. He has not yet indicated his position on the bill.

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