Bill would ban teens from getting sexchange therapy

May 23 2012 - 1:26pm

SACRAMENTO -- A bill that would ban minors in California from getting sexual orientation change therapy and require adults to provide written consent has drawn the ire of a wide range of groups representing mental health professionals. They want changes in the measure, saying the definition of the therapy is too broad and could prevent some legitimate treatment.

Psychiatrists and psychologists also say minors should be able to consent to therapy aimed at changing their sexual orientation.

They cite legislation signed in 2010 that allows minors over the age of 12 to consent to their own mental health treatment if a health professional deems the minor "mature."

California state Sen. Ted Lieu, a Democrat, said he is still "trying to resolve concerns" over the measure.

Jo Linder-Crow, executive director of the California Psychological Association, said that Lieu is not properly addressing her organization's concerns.

"We are working to offer some adjustments and amendments which we expressed in a letter to Sen. Lieu," Linder-Crow said.

The measure also allows former patients who have received the therapy to file a cause of action against a psychotherapist.

"We don't support anything that brings this wider birth of legal action against psychologists," Linder-Crow said.

The therapy at issue is rooted in the view that same-sex attraction is a matter of choice that is the result of stressors and can be changed. It's a minority position in the medical community, which does not consider homosexuality a disorder.

But Lieu has run into opposition from mainstream mental health groups.

Their letter, co-authored by the California Psychological Association, California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, California Psychiatric Association and California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, said that the groups don't want to ban the therapy for minors. They see the issue as a choice minors should be able to make for themselves.

They also said the bill's definition of sexual orientation change efforts is too vague.

Despite the concerns, Rebekah Orr, the communications director for Equality California, said she is confident that "in the end we will have a bill that protects people the best way possible."

She said the psychological and medical associations support the thrust of the bill, which Equality California proposed, "and are working to get it through."

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he has worked with many children who had been forced into the "so-called therapy."

"It is based on a lie that there's something wrong with being lesbian, gay or transgender," Minter said.

Minter said the damage from the therapy is "just brutal" and that many of the people he worked with chose to take their own lives.

Dr. Karl G. Benzio, a psychiatrist who practices the therapy and is a member of the Christian Medical Association, said the therapy "helps a person heal." He said minors should be able to consent to the treatment and so should parents on their behalf.

(Contact Hannah Madans at

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,


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