SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has become the first state in the country to ban controversial therapy practices that attempt to change the sexual orientation of minors after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to outlaw them.
The bill, SB1172 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, bars mental health practitioners from performing so-called reparative therapy, which professional psychological organizations have said may cause harm. Gay rights groups have labeled them dangerous and abusive.
“This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” Brown said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle.
National gay rights organizations had been lobbying the governor intensely to sign the therapy ban. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organization, sent Brown a petition with nearly 50,000 signatures urging him to approve the measure.
“LGBT youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being. We commend Gov. Brown for putting children first, and call on all states to take California’s lead on this issue,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Under the new law, which will take effect Jan. 1, no mental health provider will be able to provide therapy that seeks “to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
Mental health professionals who violate the law, which applies to therapy for patients younger than 18, will be subject to discipline by whatever group licenses them.
The therapy often starts from the premise that a person’s childhood and parental upbringing has somehow left that person deficient and thus has led him or her to same-sex attractions. Practitioners often are religious, and gay rights groups have derisively characterized the therapy as an attempt to “pray away the gay.”