On September 30, 2012, the honorable Jerry Brown, Governor of California, signed into law Senate Bill 1172. SB1172 prohibits professional mental health providers from attempting to change or reform the sexual orientation of minors and efforts to do so would be considered unprofessional conduct and could cost the provider their license. Even more groundbreaking, SB1172 includes the following statement: “Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.”
Recently PNC-Bay Area’s Jalen VanderYacht had the opportunity to interview Deborah Oak Cooper, a psychotherapist and Pagan in the Bay Area, who worked tirelessly to get SB1172 passed.
How did you get involved in Senate Bill 1172?
I became active in Gaylesta, the LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association, when we realized that CAMFT* was not supporting marriage equality — that essentially the board of the biggest association of mental health providers in California had been taken over by the Christian Right. We fought that and won — CAMFT now supports both Marriage Equality and eventually came around to even supporting SB1172. I started an advocacy committee in Gaylesta and eventually became Co-President.
During this time, we found out that NARTH** was registered by the BBS*** as a CEU provider. We talked about what could be done about this and one of our committee — Dino DiDinoto — reached out to Fiona Ma’s office – we met with them and her office started writing up the bill which Ted Lieu came to introduce.
*California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
**National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality
***Board of Behavioral Sciences
What was your motivation throughout your involvement?
DOC: Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will. Therapy and activism are ways of doing magic. Good therapy can save lives; bad therapy can destroy them. LGBTQ youth should not be subjected to therapy that really is professional bullying. Lives are at stake here.
What was the lowest point in your work on Bill 1172 and how did you prevail?
At the beginning, it looked like CAMFT — which is very powerful — was going to oppose it. This brought back all the pain of fighting with CAMFT about marriage equality and shifting that association to seeing homophobia as the disorder, not homosexuality. We had to put pressure on them — again — to do the right thing. Eventually they did, as so many other mental health associations supported it right out of the gate.
What was the highest point in your work on Bill 1172?
Waking on the morning after the harvest full moon to find out the Governor had signed it. I still am crying about this victory.
Do you feel that as a pagan you have a moral responsibility to work on causes like Bill 1172?
I believe that Love is the Law. Working towards a world where this is upheld is my responsibility as a Pagan. My being a Pagan and a therapist are very integrated for me. My work is to be an agent of change, both in the therapy room and outside it. Working with Gaylesta has been very good integration of this for me.
Do you believe that anyone who follows the Witch’s Rede (That it harm none, do as thou wilt) implies a moral responsibility to uphold the rights of all human beings?
Yes, I would hope so!!!! This is putting the Rede and the Charge of the Goddess into action. There are many ways to change the world for the better. The trick is finding the way you personally can do this. I feel blessed to be an activist in my chosen profession. And, it fits perfectly with my spirituality. It is simply the work I am meant to be doing.
Jalen VanderYacht reporting, Pagan Newswire Collective Bay Area
Editor’s Note: Jalen VanderYacht is the former (and last) student director of the GLBT Center at UC Santa Cruz.