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Arnold Signs Bill Aiding Gay Youths

Arnold Signs Bill Aiding Gay Youths

In a move hailed by advocates for its impact on the lives of vulnerable gay youths, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday signed a bill allowing minors ages 12 to 17 to access mental health services without parental consent. 

Authored by state senator Mark Leno, the Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth Act allows youths to consent to treatment without parental notification — provided a mental health professional deems the individual to be "mature enough to participate intelligently in the services or when the youth would present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to self or others without the services." 

Passage of the legislation comes amid a wave of news reports in recent days on suicides of LGBTQ youths as a result of antigay bullying. Equality California executive director Geoff Kors called the legislation vital to "help young people get the care they need
before they are in crisis." 

"Just this
week, four young people took their lives after experiencing antigay
bullying and antigay bias," Kors said in a statement. "We must act now to provide youth,
especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, strong support
systems, and this bill does just that."

Schwarzenegger signed a total of four bills sponsored by Equality California, the state's largest LGBT rights group, including repeal of a 1950s provision in the California Welfare and Institutions code that calls for research into "causes and cures of homosexuality."

The governor, who leaves office in January after two terms, also vetoed several LGBT-related bills, however. Among them: legislation that would have addressed risk factors for violence against LGBT prisoners.

That bill — known as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Prisoner Safety Act —would have compelled California prisons to assess an inmate's risk of abuse based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The provisions were adopted from the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission standards, of which California has already committed to being an early adopter.

Transgender Law Center legal director Kristina Wertz told The Advocate that as a result of Schwarzenegger's veto, "We will continue to wait for these well-researched, practical standards to be implemented, while we’re still seeing incredibly high rates of violence against LGBT prisoners." 

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