Even if Washington politicians aren’t yet ready to overturn unjust and discriminatory laws like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), California politicians are more than ready and jumping into action.
California Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) recently introduced AB2199, a new bill which would repeal Section 8050 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. This provocative and misdirected section was put into the code in 1950 and instructs the State Department of Mental Health to conduct research into the “causes and cures of homosexuality.” The implication is that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Californians are sexual deviants, potential sex offenders and a threat to children. Elaborated Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, the sponsor of the bill, “This section of the code is deplorable – it propagates blatantly false, harmful and outdated mischaracterizations of the lgbt community, and it should have been repealed long ago.”
“This is something like race restrictions on deeds,” said Lowenthal. “It’s not enough to ignore them, you have to blot them out and make it clear we’re never going back there.” The law was put on the books after a series sex crimes which included the rape and murder of a 6-year-old girl. The murderer openly confessed and, important to understanding the unfairness of Section 8050, was not homosexual. Clarified Lowenthal, “Even then, there was no legal justification to say that gay people needed to be understood and cured in the exact same way as sexual predators who rape and kill children. For us to leave it there would be wrong.”
Lowenthal’s bill would add to California’s law books present-day science and values which were absent in 1950. The State has not conducted research into homosexuality for decades. “This (present) code simply mischaracterizes and institutes bigotry against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,” echoed Mario Guerrero, a director of Equality California.
In an editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “Needless to say, enforcement of this particular section has tapered off. The state has far better things to do than hunt down a ‘cure’ for sexual orientation…the insulting language remains on the books…The idea of searching for a homosexuality ‘cure’ is insulting, absurd and rooted in ignorance.”
According to Cathy Bussewitz, Associated Press Writer, “California lawmakers last week narrowly advanced a bill that would repeal a state law designed to find the causes and cures of homosexuality. The bill moved out of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on a 4-0 vote, with one Democrat and two Republican members abstaining from voting. They said the law’s reference to homosexuality should be removed but that they want the state to continue researching sex crimes.”
Voting “yes” were Democrats Tom Ammiano (13th District, San Francisco), Nancy Skinner (14th District, Oakland), Jerry Hill (19th District, San Mateo) and Jim Beall Jr. (24th District, Campbell/Saratoga). Abstaining were Republicans Curt Hagman (60th District, Chino Hills) and Danny Gilmore (30th District, Hanford). The third abstention was cast by Democrat Anthony Portantino (44th District, La Canada/Flintridge).
Democratic Assemblymember Portantino reiterated, “As I said today in committee, this was my saddest day in the legislature. It is offensive that somebody 60 years ago would try to include homosexuality as a disorder and that these types of mean spirited offenses continue to today. I respectfully asked the author to focus only on the offensive language related to homosexuality so the bill could accomplish the author’s stated and laudable goal.”
“Unfortunately, the author would not make that change and wanted to also include the deletion of efforts to stop sex crimes against children and methods to identify potential sex offenders. As a supporter of gay rights, the sibling of a gay brother whom I deeply love and the father of an eight year old, this put me and others in a unnecessary Sophie’s choice. I look forward to supporting legislation that deletes homosexuality from this state code.”
Groups which registered support for the bill were: California Teachers Association, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, California Communities United Institute, California Mental Health Directors Association, Disability Rights California and Equality California. The American Psychiatric Association stopped listing homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.
The only group opposing the legislation was Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX). PFOX should not be confused with PFLAG – Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. PFLAG is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and over 500 affiliates in the United States. PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of lgbt persons, their families and friends through: support, education and advocacy to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. The best way to describe PFOX, would be to say that the word FOX in their name rightly connects them to the shameful conservative family values prevalent on FOX Cable News.
The Committee vote puts the bill on track to go to the full Assembly for consideration.