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A California Senator's Attack on Parental Rights

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Two months ago, I wrote, “As of today, it is legal in California to give hormone blockers to an 11 year-old boy in order to delay the onset of puberty, but it could soon be illegal for a 17 year-old with unwanted same-sex attractions to receive professional counseling, even with parental consent.” Now, California Senator Ted Lieu, has removed any doubt as to why he introduced Senate Bill 1172: “The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill because we don’t want to let parents harm their children.”

This is an absolute outrage, and every parent in California needs to contact their senators and urge them to vote against this ridiculous and wrong-headed bill.

Senator Lieu, who is married with children, said “he got the idea for the bill after seeing a television special last fall about adults who had gone through this kind of therapy as children. He said he was struck by their description of traumatic experiences, confusion, depression and suicidal thoughts.” And so Lieu has now appointed himself the guardian of the children of California, the arbiter of what is best for them, and the ward over the parents of his state.

If this is not an example of egregious government overreach, nothing is.

For those unfamiliar with SB 1172, it is an unprecedented bill that “would ban sexual orientation conversion therapy for California minors—even if they or their parents want it.” It would also make it very difficult for an adult with unwanted same-sex attractions to receive professional counseling, since the counselor would have to inform the client that the counseling does not work and that it could cause harm. How encouraging! [Update: The informed adult consent part of the bill has been dropped -- a small step in the right direction.]

The bill has the enthusiastic support of gay activist organizations and gay politicians, and it is making its way through the Legislature with almost total Democratic backing. Thankfully, there are some politicians who are exposing the absurd nature of the bill. As reported by Kim Reyes in the Orange County Register, Assemblyman Donald Wagner explained that, “The default of this Legislature is to assume authority over parents by getting invested in issues of medicine, which is something it is not qualified to do, especially regarding matters of medical decisions made between parents and children.”

“The Legislature has no business telling parents how to raise their kids, Wagner said, nor is it appropriate for a bunch of legislators without medical training to judge the effectiveness of a particular therapy. ‘I’m not a doctor,’ the assemblyman said.”

Reyes also noted that “three experts consulted by the Orange County Register said they were not aware of the California State Legislature ever outlawing a specific kind of therapy.” (I can only imagine what kinds of professional therapies take place in California, all without legal interference.) And Marc Mason, administrative manager at the Board of Behavioral Sciences, which licenses counselors and therapists in California, stated that “Therapies themselves are not regulated. We regulate individuals or licensees, and we do not have the ability or statutory authority to ban a certain type of therapy.”

Even the leftleft-leaning, pro-gay-activist, American Psychological Association (APA) “‘does not approve or ban’ therapies,” according to Rhea Farberman, an APA spokeswoman. “The association has said that sexual re-orientation efforts are not effective, but hasn’t designated such therapy as an ethical violation.”

Lieu, however, states that, “The facts show that you cannot change someone’s sexual orientation, and when you try to do that, it harms them. The only (legitimate study showing) that highly-motivated homosexuals can change their orientation was conducted by Robert Spitzer (a renowned psychiatrist). He retracted his study this past year, noting that there was no scientific reasoning to back up his findings. So, there is no factual proof that this type of therapy works.”

This, of course, is nonsense. First, there are thousands of former homosexuals who testify to significant or even complete change in their sexual orientation, be it through religious conversion or professional therapy or both. In this age of so-called tolerance and inclusion, why are they ignored or mocked or ridiculed? Why should we believe the testimonies of gays who tried to change but couldn’t while refusing to believe the testimonies of gays who did change? Second, there are actually decades of professional studies documenting the possibility of change (for a detailed discussion, see my book A Queer Thing Happened to America). Third, Spitzer did not retract his study, nor did he discover that his findings were scientifically inaccurate after further research. He simply apologized for the study after suffering years of ugly and unrelenting attack from gay activists and their allies.

But all this is secondary to the larger matter at hand, namely the extraordinary attempt of the government of California to tell parents and their children that, regardless of their spiritual convictions, moral convictions, social convictions, or scientific convictions, minors with unwanted same-sex attractions cannot receive professional counseling to help them change, even with parental consent.

To repeat the words of Senator Lieu, “The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill.” Parents of California, are you going to let this bill pass on your watch?

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