-- Catholic News Agency
Calif. Gay Therapy Law Erodes Parental Rights, Critics Charge
SACRAMENTO, CALIF., October 3 (CNA) .- Pro-family and parental rights groups are saying a new California law banning therapy for minors who struggle with same-sex attraction is disrespectful of both personal choice and parents' rights.
"Parents have the best interests of their children in mind, and if they determine that particular types of therapies or interventions are needed, that's certainly their right, and this law doesn't respect that," Ned Dolejsi, director of the California Catholic Conference told CNA Oct. 2.
"The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill, because we don't want to let parents harm their children," the bill's sponsor Ted Lieu has said.
He compared reparative therapy to minors' use of tobacco and alcohol, and stated, "reparative therapy hurts children, so this bill allows us to stop parents from hurting their children."
But Dolejsi asserted that "for the legislature to step in and assume that they need to protect children from their parents and or therapists is in my opinion arrogant and presumptuous."
The bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 29. It will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
The law is broadly worded, and prohibits any therapy "to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex" among minors.
Passage of the law means California minors who have unwished-for homosexual behavior or attraction will be unable to pursue medical avenues to address those issues. The therapies prohibited are much broader than solely "conversion" to heterosexuality, barring even therapy to change homosexual behavior among minors.
The bill was supported by both gay rights activists and mental health groups, who claim that reparative therapy may increase the risk of depression and suicide.
However, Bill May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, is concerned about the law's effect on youths' well-being.
"This bill not only violates parental rights but the rights of the child to know the truth about true love, true friendship, marriage, and healthy use of human sexuality," May said.
The law also raises concerns about religious freedom.
"It would prohibit Catholic, licensed counselors - including some priests, nuns and counselors in Catholic schools - from treating the whole person according to Catholic teaching. In counseling they can only affirm same-sex attraction or gender confusion, or put their licenses in jeopardy," he said.
Governor Brown claimed that conversion therapy has "no basis in science or medicine" and "will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery," in a statement after signing the law.
Dolejsi added that the California Catholic Conference doesn't "have a position reparative therapy" but emphasized that "the legislature has banned this for minors to the exclusion of their parents' desires and wishes."
Legislatures "don't have the competence to make a decision about which therapies are appropriate," and that decision should be left to psychiatric professionals, he stated.
A 2009 American Psychiatric Association task force recommended that the appropriate response to those with same-sex attraction involves "therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients ... without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome," and that efforts to change orientation "involve some risk of harm."
The American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality to be a mental disease until 1973. A former president of the APA said in a 2012 video interview that within the organization, political stances "override any scientific results."
Both the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the Pacific Justice Institute intend to legally challenge the California law on First Amendment grounds.
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