Despite significant progress made in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement, there are those in society who continue to perceive homosexuality as temporary, or even “curable.” This state of mind is demeaning to the LGBT community and offers false justification to at least 24 clinics across California where sexual orientation conversion efforts still take place. These modern-day clinics are run by licensed mental health providers who attempt to change the sexual orientation of minors from gay to straight. The psychological stress that can result from youth being led to believe they have a “mental illness” is disturbing, particularly when unknowing parents send their children to these clinics.
Soon, however, California may be the first state in the nation to ban such discriminatory practices. Senate Bill 1172 (SB 1172) co-sponsored by Equality California, would ban licensed mental health providers from subjecting minors to sexual orientation conversion efforts. The California Senate approved SB 1172 back in May, and I had the opportunity to attend a hearing in June where an Assembly committee further approved the bill. Now with an upcoming vote on the Assembly floor, I must say I am proud to have been a part of Equality California’s field work that has furthered awareness for SB 1172.
The field work surrounding SB 1172 has offered California’s citizens a chance to lend their voices to government action. EQCA’s Northern and Southern California offices took part in Pride celebrations throughout the summer and in the process collected 8,200 signatures from constituents urging Assembly members to vote in favor of the bill. Perhaps most encouraging, however, has been the enthusiasm of individuals who have personally reached out to their elected officials.
For the past week, Equality California’s staff, interns, and volunteers called constituents in districts with undecided representatives. During these conversations, callers urged proponents of SB 1172 to be directly transferred to their legislatures’ offices where they voiced their support. During my time calling, I quickly found that people were not only willing to be transferred to their representatives; they were unabashedly eager. The dedication of the callers and the passion of the constituents resulted in over 1,000 calls made to legislators’ offices.
This collaboration has been essential in spreading the word about SB 1172 and will continue to be essential as we approach next week’s vote. If you have not informed your legislator about your position on SB 1172, please state your support now. Now is a crucial moment for this piece of legislation, and we cannot back down. We must set a precedent for the rest of our nation by banning this discriminatory practice and, ultimately, keeping our youth safe