More than 55K petitions
urge Brown to sign SB 1172
by Catherine Pickavet
Representatives from Gaylesta and Equality California delivered more than 55,000 petitions to Governor Jerry Brown's San Francisco office last week, urging him to sign Senate Bill 1172. The bill would prohibit mental health professionals from attempting to engage in efforts to alter the sexual orientation of LGBT youth 18 years and younger.
Authored by state Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), SB 1172 was passed by the California Assembly on August 28 by a vote of 23-13. It was then passed a second time by the state Senate on August 30 due to minor changes before heading to the governor's desk.
"The abusive practices that this bill would end cause serious harm to LGBT youth, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse and suicide," said EQCA spokesman Steve Roth. "Passage of this bill will help keep California at the leading edge in the effort to protect LGBT youth, making it the first state in the nation to ban these abusive practices."
Most mental health practitioners agree that so-called conversion therapy is a detriment to the mental health of gay youth and adults who have been subject to the practice.
Guy Albert, a Berkeley-based psychologist and member of LGBTQ psychotherapy group Gaylesta, said he has witnessed firsthand the lasting damage that the practice has had on youth and adults and that having this many signatures in support of the bill is meaningful.
"This is an impressive show of names to tell Governor Brown that SB 1172 is vitally important to the health and safety of youth around the state," Albert said in an interview in front of the governor's office before the petitions were delivered. "The implication within the terms 'reparative therapy' or 'conversion therapy' is that something needs to be repaired or converted in someone with same-sex attractions. There's nothing to repair or convert in us. What's been happening is a kind of legalized gay bashing. We want that to stop."
Since the bill went to Brown's office, the campaign to amass public support has been gathering momentum on multiple fronts. EQCA has collected more than 11,200 signatures. Gaylesta, through its Change.org petition, has collected more than 11,600. And All Out has collected more than 32,000. Each signature helps to further illustrate to Brown the significance of the bill's impact on LGBT youth and the larger community, proponents said.
In addition to the signatures, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a co-sponsor, initiated a Twitter campaign on September 5, asking people to send tweets directly to the governor with the #SB1172 hashtag, urging him to sign the bill.
According to NCLR spokesman Erik Olvera, out celebrities, including Jane Lynch, Chely Wright, and Wilson Cruz, have tweeted their support. In addition, the organization said, almost every major national LGBT organization has tweeted in support of SB 1172, and asked their followers to do the same. As of this week, there were thousands of direct tweets in support of the bill, he said.
"We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for this bill, including extraordinary efforts on the part of all the Senate Bill 1172 co-sponsors and supporters to gather thousands of signatures to present to Governor Brown," Shannon Minter, NCLR legal director, said in an email to the Bay Area Reporter .
"It is essential that the governor understands why this bill is so important to LGBT people and our friends and families, and nothing communicates that more clearly than hearing directly from voters who take the time to sign petitions, write letters, call or tweet asking him to support this bill and sign it into law," Minter added.
The governor has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill. If he does nothing, the law's protections will go into effect January 1.
For more information or to sign a petition, visit Equality California (http://www.eqca.org); NCLR (http://www.nclrights.org); Gaylesta (http://www.gaylesta.org and http://chn.ge/Qc7I3r); or All Out (http://www.allout.org/govbrown).