Update to SB1172 and SOCE in California

June 09, 2012 4:50 PM | Admin EBCAMFT
By Jim Walker, LMFT

The EB CAMFT board gave their support to SB 1172 at their May board meeting. Senate Bill 1172 would regulate sexual orientation change efforts--SOCE--otherwise known as "reparative therapy," "conversion therapy," or "ex-gay therapy." The latest version of the bill may be found here http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html  by searching for SB 1172.

The bill would ban attempting SOCE on minors, and it would require an informed consent for SOCE on adults. The informed consent would notify the client that SOCE is found to be potentially harmful by such organizations as the American Psychological Association and other national mental health organizations.

Earlier this year, statewide CAMFT announced their SOCE policy--asking mental health professionals who provide therapy to those seeking sexual orientation change "to do so by utilizing affirmative multiculturally competent and client-centered approaches that recognize the negative impact of social stigma on sexual minorities." http://www.camft.org/Content/NavigationMenu/ResourceCenter/SOCE/default.htm 

Organizations that have supported SB 1172  are the Pacific Center in Berkeley, the Women's Therapy Center of El Cerrito, Gaylesta [the LGBTQ Therapists' Association of the SF Bay Area], the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association of Southern California and the California Division of the National Association of Social Workers.

SB 1172 was authored by Senator Ted Lieu (D-Fullerton) with support from two LGBT rights organizations, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality California http://www.eqca.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=kuLRJ9MRKrH&b=5609563&ct=11722129&notoc=1 Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are known for their courageous work protecting queer people and their families.

So-called "conversion therapy" has been in the news lately. The eminent psychologist who claimed in his 2003 study there appeared to be change in sexual orientation "in very rare cases" recently revoked his study. He apologized to the gay community.

The Pan American Health Organization, the oldest health organization in the world and part of the World Health organization, has called for national legislation against SOCE. "These practices are unjustifiable and should be denounced and subject to sanctions and penalties under national legislation," said Dr. Roses [director of PAHO]. "These supposed conversion therapies constitute a violation of the ethical principles of health care and violate human rights that are protected by international and regional agreements." http://www.dayagainsthomophobia.org/Media-Release-World-Health,1557

Most recently the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an ethics complaint to the American Psychological Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Association on behalf of an Oregon man who alleges he was subjected to SOCE. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/oregon-man-says-psychiatrist-tried-gay-to-straight-conversion-therapy-against-his-wishes/2012/05/23/gJQA3MMJlU_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

It is very noteworthy that these major organizations consider supposed conversion therapy as a violation of clinical ethics.

Senate Bill 1172 will come to a vote before the whole Senate before or by June 1, 2012. In addition to the support of CA-NASW, one of the largest mental health organizations in California, the bill's authors have been seeking support from smaller organizations such as the California Psychological Association and AAMFT-California. Statewide CAMFT and other organizations have been negotiating for amendments to the bill before supporting it.


Jim Walker, MFT, is in private practice in SF and Oakland where he specializes in working with couples and with healing from trauma. Among his many activities, he's volunteering with the Pacific Center on starting their continuing education program this fall.

Jim Walker, LMFT
510-684-4508  cell
Offices in Oakland and San Francisco


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