NASW-California takes leadership role backing bill that bans ‘reparative therapy’

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

The NASW California Chapter took a leadership role in helping pass a state law that bans sexual orientation change efforts for minors.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law S.B. 1172 on Sept. 29, making California the first state in the union to prohibit licensed mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, or “reparative” therapies, for minors. The law goes into effect this month.

Rebecca Gonzales, director of NASW California Government Relations and Political Affairs, said it was crucial that the chapter play a leadership role in the coalition effort to support the bill.

“We were instrumental in ensuring that this was a bill that protected minors (and) did not in any way legitimize sexual orientation change efforts,” she said.

“Based on strong statements in ‘Social Work Speaks’ against the use of reparative therapy, we felt that it was important to provide a leadership role in passing this legislation,” she said. “In addition, NASW California has always been a strong voice for the rights of the LGBT community in California and we felt that it was very important for us to continue in this leadership role.”

“Social Work Speaks” — NASW’s book of policy statements — explains that NASW is against reparative therapies and treatments designed to change sexual orientation, and is against referring clients to practitioners or programs that claim to do so.

Gonzales noted that a previous version of the state bill provided an “informed consent” for adults seeking this type of “therapy.”

“We felt that this was an unwise path because it would establish that once an adult patient consented to this ‘therapy,’ that it may be performed,” she said. “According to ‘Social Work Speaks’ and according to our Code of Ethics, we do not believe that this therapy can ever ethically be performed. Luckily the (bill) author’s office agreed with us that the bill was much stronger once the ‘informed consent’ provisions were amended out.”

Gonzales also explained that efforts were made to ensure there were no “safe harbor” provisions in the bill that would have protected therapists from liability.

“There were several attempts to amend the bill that could have provided such a protection,” she said.

The chapter will keep abreast of any legal challenges to the law.

“A lawsuit was filed almost immediately to block the bill’s implementation,” Gonzales said. “The author’s office believes that the legal challenge is weak and will be thrown out. We are hopeful that minors in California will be protected from this harmful practice.”

From the January 2013 NASW News. For more stories, click here.

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