Brown signs ban
on anti-gay therapy
by Seth Hemmelgarn
As part of a slew of action on many LGBT-related bills, California Governor Jerry Brown ended weeks of suspense by signing Senate Bill 1172 over the weekend. The bill, authored by Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), bans state-licensed mental health professionals from attempting to engage in efforts to alter the sexual orientation of LGBT youth 18 years and younger.
SB 1172 was sent to the governor in late August and supporters had put out calls for people to contact the governor via email and through social networking sites. As the Bay Area Reporter noted on its blog, Brown signed the bill Saturday, September 29 – one day before the deadline for him to sign or veto legislation.
Numerous LGBT organizations, including Gaylesta, an LGBT psychotherapy organization; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Equality California championed the legislation.
California becomes the first state in the country to have such a law, which goes into effect January 1.
In a brief phone interview Monday, October 1, Lieu said he was "ecstatic" at the bill's signing.
"I think that this was a significant victory, and that it sets a precedent I hope other states will copy," Lieu said.
"I want parents to understand that reparative therapy can do great psychological harm to their children, and it's my hope that, with the news about this issue, parents will stop sending their children to these therapists," he added.
In a statement, NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said, "Governor Brown has sent a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBT youth and their families. This law will ensure that state-licensed therapists can no longer abuse their power to harm LGBT youth and propagate the dangerous and deadly lie that sexual orientation is an illness or disorder that can be 'cured.'"
Anti-gay groups were quick to criticize the bill and vowed a court fight. And while the law bans state-licensed therapists from administering so-called conversion therapy, it will not affect religious groups or ministers.
Other bills signed
Another bill that Brown signed into law is Assembly Bill 1505, authored by Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), which is related to the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military. The legislation reinstates California veterans benefits, rescinded due to a discharge based solely on sexual orientation, automatically when the federal government does the same. The new law also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide resources from veterans' legal services organizations that specialize in discharge upgrades and claims representation.
"Equality begins with the recognition of individual worth," Pan said in a statement. "Honoring the great service and sacrifices these veterans have made defending us, their fellow Americans, is fundamental to the principals we stand for as a nation."
Gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) saw three LGBT-related bills signed.
AB 401 deletes an obsolete provision from the Carl Washington School Safety and Violence Prevention Act that specifies sexual orientation shall not include pedophilia.
Another Ammiano bill, AB 1729, expands the current list of alternatives to suspension and expulsion for superintendents and principals in the state school discipline codes. It also requires schools to document alternative means of correction taken prior to suspension or expulsion.
Finding alternatives to suspension and expulsion have been seen as a way to address bullying of LGBT students.
"The bill is designed to correct the root causes of the pupil's misbehavior, account for any individualized educational plans, and the age of the student," a news release put out by Ammiano's office in May states.
Finally, Ammiano's AB 1856 requires the training for an administrator of a group home facility, licensed foster parent, and relative or nonrelative extended family member caregiver, to also include instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to LGBT youth in out-of-home care.
Another gay lawmaker, Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), saw success with a proposal that former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed.
SB 1140 specifies that no priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination is required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith. Refusal to solemnize a marriage under that provision won't affect the tax-exempt status of any entity.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) authored AB 2356, which ensures that women in same-sex relationships can access fertility services on the same terms as women in opposite-sex relationships.
One of AB 2356's sponsors was the statewide LGBT lobbying group Equality California, which also saw a number of other bills it had backed signed into law in September.
"The decisions regarding building a family are a core freedom in California," EQCA board President Clarissa Filgioun said in a statement. "Same-sex couples have faced many barriers in forming families, including unequal access to fertility health care. This unequal treatment has, heartbreakingly, denied many couples the opportunity to conceive a child of their own. Signing AB 2356 works to remedy that disparity, putting the joy of having a child and building a family within the reach of all loving families."
Another new law, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler's (D-Marina Del Rey) AB 1700, is designed to keep LGBTs from losing their homes when a partner dies. The bill excludes a transfer of co-tenancy interest in a principal residence from property tax reassessment if two people owned the principal residence and it was transferred to one of them when the other died, and the survivor obtains sole ownership.
AB 1960, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, (D-Sacramento) requires the state Department of General Services to report on the participation levels of LGBT businesses in state contracts that has been voluntarily reported as of January 1, 2013.
Another bill signed by the governor, SB 987, involves same-sex couples. The new law, authored by state Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) changes sections of the government code administered by the California Public Employees' Retirement Board, including code sections governing the California Public Employees' Retirement System, among other systems. Provisions include clarifying references to "spouse," "surviving spouse," and "marriage" apply equally to a registered domestic partner, or partnership, to the extent provided by the domestic partnership provisions in the state family code.
As with SB 1172, all the bills go into effect January 1.
Brown vetoed Leno's SB 1476, which would have provided that a child may have a parent and child relationship with more than two parents. The legislation, which would have clarified existing law, would have applied in cases involving both same-sex and straight parents.
In a veto message dated Sunday, September 30, Brown said, "I am sympathetic to the author's interest in protecting children. But I am troubled by the fact that some family law specialists believe the bill's ambiguities may have unintended consequences. I would like to take more time to consider all of the implications of this change."
Asked in a brief phone interview Monday whether he'd try again with the bill, Leno said, "I certainly will be in conversation with the administration to better understand what their concern and objection was, because I am committed to giving our family courts the authority in that bill. I think it will keep children from unnecessarily finding their way into our foster care system."