California State Sen. Ted Lieu is "really thrilled that Gov. Brown signed the first law in the nation to ban conversation therapy for minors," he said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.
Lieu - a lawyer by training and a former prosecutor - said he is unconcerned by threats from Liberty Counsel and NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) to mount a legal challenge to SB 1172 "to overturn this repressive legislation that limits parental rights and the right of individuals to seek assistance for unwanted homosexuality," as NARTH describes it on their website.
"We have looked at the constitutionality carefully," Lieu said, "and there is nothing unconstitutional about this law. What the opposition is saying is that this is a violation of their First Amendment rights. But the First Amendment was never viewed as protecting the practice of medicine through talking. That's why a psychologist can be sued for malpractice. So in my mind, this is not about the First Amendment and I don't think they have a case."
Lieu recalled how his involvement with the issue happened last year when he was watching a CNN special series on so-called "reparative" therapy hosted by Anderson Cooper that included a segment on Kirk Murphy being part of "The Sissy Boy Experiment:"
Kirk was being used as a model on how reparative therapy was able to change a person from gay to being straight. Later, Kirk committed suicide and I thought this is evil. So earlier this year, when Equality California came to my office and asked me to carry this bill, I jumped at the chance.
Though Lieu used the word "evil" to describe the unethical practice of conversion "therapy," he pointed out that SB 1172 doesn't apply to religious organizations and that over 30 groups supported the bill. "They are free to teach whatever their folks believe about their religion. But if you practice medicine, you cannot do this. There is no medical basis for this and studies show it actually causes harm," he said.
Groups such as the antigay Focus on the Family and the Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) suggest the bill is designed to take away a parent's right to provide counseling to their child "struggling with sexuality," as CRI's Karen England put it.
As a controversial bill making it illegal for counselors to help minors struggling with same-sex attractions or behaviors makes its way through the California Legislature, the state senator who authored it recently explained his motivation to a newspaper.
"The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill because we don't want to let parents harm their children," Sen. Ted Lieu, D-San Francisco, told The Orange County Register.
David Pickup, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, said the statement - which the senator's press secretary confirmed to CitizenLink - eclipses the American Psychological Association, which does not ban any form of therapy.
"Sen. Lieu is a linchpin in terms of the voice of this agenda, but the agenda is not set within him. It's within the gay-rights lobbyists and the political gay agenda, that's really working through him, that's convinced him they are absolutely right, to the exclusion of other people's rights, so he's championed their cause," noted David Pickup, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. "For him to use this shallow reasoning and then say he's going to attack parents' rights is unprecedented."
Last May after a hearing in Sacramento, KNBC News interviewed both Lieu and Pickup, who admits "there's quackery out there." But he practices "authentic reparative therapy...and it works!"
One of the points was highlight to parents that this therapy is dangerous and can cause severe psychological harm to children. I'm a parent and I believe in parental rights. But parents are not allowed to harm a child....That's why we don't allow minor to buy whisky or cigarettes, even if their parents want them to. So the government routinely intervenes to protect children from harm. This sends a message that this therapy is harmful - which a lot of parents don't know.
The California Psychological Association came out in support of the bill and one reason they did so is they said this is not legitimate therapy. This is quackery. There is no medical basis for the notion that sexual orientation is a medical disease or requires medicine or a cure....The entire psychological community - other than NARTH - says reparative therapy is not legitimate and should not be practiced because it can cause great harm.
Lieu also noted that the state outlaws such practices as electro-shock therapy on minors and psychological surgery (lobotomies) for children - regardless of what the parents wants.
Noting that Kors, Minter, and NCLR are exporting the bill to New Jersey, among other states, Lieu said:
I hope that all 50 states ban this practice since there's no science behind what they do and it's harmful. I'd be thrilled if there was a federal law against it.
I'd also be thrilled if someone launched a lawsuit against a reparative therapist for engaging in medical malpractice.
And since so-called "reparative therapy" is such a lucrative business among political, social and religious conservatives, it is understandable that David Pickup would be fighting so fiercely to save his livelihood. He charges between $130-$175 per session. According to NetworkTherapy.com, subtitled "A Mental Health Network," Pickup got his Masters in Psychology from National University in Los Angeles in 2006 and is licensed (# MFC 48780) as a Marriage & Family Therapist by California Board of Behavioral Sciences. His professional affiliations are California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH), and he's an Associate member of the American Psychological Association - which, along with the American Psychiatric Association, has condemned so-called reparative therapy.
In an email interview, National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter said he and other SB 1172 co-sponsors are ready for NARTH:
NCLR and Equality California are prepared for any legal challenge and will intervene to help the state defend the law if any challenge is filed. We are confident that any challenge will fail. This law is on completely solid ground. The state has clear legal authority and responsibility to protect young people from harm, and that is exactly what this law does.
If there is litigation, it will be a further chance to shine a spotlight on how bogus and damaging these practices are, and why the state should not permit state-licensed therapists to abuse their power to harm children.
Minter pointed to an 8-page letter NCLR sent to Gov. Brown outlining legal arguments favoring SB 1172. But perhaps even more important than a potential lawsuit is the fact that the psychological associations must start vetting their own members about whether or not they follow not only state law but the association's own policies. While Pickup's resume on NetworkTherapy.com is broad, his personal website is quite clearly advancing scientifically and medically debunked conversion therapy. Additionally, he appeared on CNN today and argued in favor of NARTH and what he claims is "authentic reparative therapy" - leaving the anchor and the health reporter agog: