On September 26, 2020, Assembly Bill 1145 was signed into law. For over 10 years in the pursuit of legislative advocacy as an LMFT and as a Gerry Grossman Seminars instructor of BBS exam preparatory and continuing education classes, I have strongly advocated for a change in the law as it pertained to mandated reporting and consensual sex and minors. In 2010, I wrote an article regarding this subject for CAMFT Therapist magazine to alert mental health professionals to the inequity in the law. I spoke out regarding this topic at annual CAMFT conferences and at multiple BBS meetings, and walked the halls of the Capital Building advocating at representatives’ offices.
The passing of this law was a team effort. First of all, I want to thank California Assembly Member Cristina Garcia (58th District) for sponsoring the legislation that led to the change in the law. Her unwavering commitment in authoring multiple bills over a sustained period of time in the face of others’ hesitation and resistance brought this law to fruition. I want to thank all the LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs and LEPs who took the time to contact and educate their legislators regarding this issue. Thanks to the professional organizations that supported this effort: the BBS, CAMFT, NASW-CA, CALPCC, among others. I especially want to thank dedicated colleagues who joined me in this effort: “Cio” Hernandez, LMFT, LPCC, Benjamin Caldwell, Psy.D., Angela Kahn, LMFT and many more.
The signing of AB1145 by California Governor Gavin Newsom corrects decades of inequity in California law that required mental health professionals to respond to different forms of consensual sexual activity involving minors in different manners. In short, therapeutic conversations regarding consensual penis/vagina intercourse involving minors within a legally defined age range required confidentiality, whereas discussions pertaining to consensual oral and anal sex involving minors within the same age range required a mandatory report to a child protective agency. This legal formulation was particularly discriminatory to gay youth and criminalized these acts of consensual sexual activity.
The benefit of this new law to teen clients is that all forms of consensual sexual activity, within specific age ranges, will be treated in a similar manner. Teen clients can now be more forthcoming about their sexual explorations. Gay youth will no longer be shamed by the discriminatory bias in the law.
The benefit to mental health providers is that having the same age guidelines for all forms of consensual sexual activity reduces confusion and eliminates the potential liability of not following a discriminatory law. I know that the status of the law was a concerning and conflicting issue for many mental health professionals and I am gratified that this issue will now be behind us.
I am happy to say that, in 2021, Gerry Grossman Seminars materials will reflect the changed status of California mandatory reporting law as it pertains to consensual sex and minors.