Jerry Brown

SAN FRANCISCO — Gay rights advocates are making plans to get other states to join California in banning psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight, even as opponents prepared Monday to sue to overturn the first law in the nation to take aim at the practice.

After months of intense lobbying, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill late Saturday that prohibits licensed mental health professionals from using so-called reparative or conversion therapies with clients under age 18. Brown called the therapies “quackery” that “have no basis in science or medicine.”
Two New Jersey lawmakers already are drafting similar legislation, while groups that helped get the California law passed are sharing research, witnesses and talking points with counterparts in other gay-friendly states, said Geoff Kors, senior legislative and policy strategist for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“There are lots of folks today who are looking at this, now that the governor has signed it,” Kors said. “We’ll be reaching out to all the state (gay rights) groups, especially in states that have had success passing LGBT rights legislation.”

Two Christian legal groups, meanwhile, said they would sue in federal court in Sacramento to prevent the law from taking effect on Jan. 1.

The lawsuits will be filed on behalf of therapists whose practices include efforts to help clients change their sexual orientations or reduce their attractions to people of the same sex; parents who have sought such therapy for their children; and teenagers who currently are undergoing it, lawyers for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute and Florida-based Liberty Counsel said.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said his organization plans to argue in court that the law infringes on the First Amendment and equal protection rights of individuals to give and receive information that matches their personal and professional beliefs.

“What this law does is tell minors that they can no longer receive information about same-sex attractions that they have been receiving and that they find beneficial to them,” Staver said. “It also puts counselors in a situation where they must present only one viewpoint of this subject.”

The law Brown signed states that mental health providers who use sexual orientation change efforts on clients under 18 would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by their respective state licensing boards.

The original bill introduced by state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, also would have required therapists to warn adult patients of the practice’s risks and limitations and to obtain their written consent.

Lieu dropped the informed consent provision, however, after a number of mental health associations in California — including the California Psychological Association and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists — complained that it interfered with the therapist-client relationship.

Both groups, as well as the other leading professional groups, ultimately endorsed the ban for juveniles.

In recent weeks, two states passed versions of the DREAM Act to help increase accessibility of higher education for undocumented immigrants.

On Monday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the state’s version of the DREAM Act, creating a private scholarship fund for children of immigrants to pay for college. Moreover, last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the first part of the state’s DREAM Act, which will allow undocumented students in California to access private financial aid.

The federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would reward those who have been educated in or have shown their dedication to the United States by providing legal residency to those who have lived in the country since at least age 15 and have completed college or military service for at least two years.

The act would potentially allow those who already contribute to our economy and society to continue to do so.

Undocumented children in Texas who attend public universities currently qualify for in-state tuition rates, thanks to the 2001 passage of the Texas DREAM Act. Twelve other states face similar situations, as they, like Texas, allow illegal residents to pay in-state tuition rates.

The DREAM Act makes sense economically. As it stands now, the state invests a significant amount of funding in educating young undocumented students from K-12 and into college. However, if those students are then denied access into the workforce, the state loses out on its investment.

Even amid the media attention surrounding his speculation of a run for presidency, Gov. Rick Perry has stood by his support for the statewide DREAM Act. Despite his opposition to the passage of the federal DREAM Act, Perry’s continued support for the Texas DREAM Act is, unsurprisingly, raising questions from tea party groups and other conservatives whose support Perry would need to secure the Republican nomination for president.

“From my experience dealing with Iowans in all 99 counties, the immigration issue is a very sensitive issue,” Iowa tea party activist Gregg Cummings told The Dallas Morning News last week. “He’s going to have a tough time trying to answer.”

Nonetheless, Perry defended his support for the Texas DREAM Act. When questioned about the act in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader last month, Perry responded, “To punish these young Texans for their parents’ actions is not what America has always been about.”

The arguments against the DREAM Act are typically unfounded and consistently fall back on the same hackneyed rhetoric and fear-mongering. The DREAM Act is not an incentive that will encourage illegal immigration.

Rather, it is a gateway to allow a hard-working and educated segment of our population the ability to contribute to its nation. Considering the dismal rates for college graduation and degree obtainment nationwide, continuing to shut out qualified graduates is not just bad policy,
it’s nonsensical.

Though it is unlikely that the federal DREAM Act will pass in the immediate future, the passage of state DREAM acts across the country and the U.S. Senate’s hearing on the act in June, the first such hearing, indicate that the act is becoming increasingly important to Americans. Without the DREAM Act, children of immigrants who came to the United States illegally are at an unfair disadvantage, and DREAM acts at both state and federal levels help to rectify that injustice by providing them equal access to the workforce and a path to citizenship.

-Viviana Aldous for the editorial board

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to move California’s presidential primary from February to June next year in a money-saving move for the state.

Brown signed AB80 on Friday. Consolidating the presidential and regular statewide primaries is expected to save the state about $100 million.

California had tried to increase its political influence in 2008 by shifting the presidential primary to Super Tuesday. However, the shift cost state taxpayers about $97 million.

Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, said his bill will increase voter turnout by reducing the number of statewide elections.

Several Republicans had suggested the presidential and regular primaries should be moved to March to give California more clout in the Republican nominating process.