California lawmakers are considering whether to repeal a law which requires the state to look for cures for homosexuality.

The legislation, which dates from the 1950s, says that gays are “sexual deviants” and requires the state to carry out research on “deviations conducive to sex crimes against children”.

It was drawn up after a series of sex crimes in Los Angeles, including the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl.

Although the perpetrator was not a gay man, homosexuality was included in the list of sexual deviations in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 8050.

The law says: “The State Department of Mental Health shall plan, conduct and cause to be conducted scientific research into the causes and cures of sexual deviation, including deviations conductive to sex crimes against children and the causes and cures of homosexuality.”

Democrat assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal is sponsoring the repeal effort.

She told Associated Press: “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.”

Yesterday, lawmakers in a Public Safety Committee voted 4-0 to repeal the law.

One Democrat and two Republicans abstained from voting, saying they wanted to see the law remain in place to tackle sex crime but with references to homosexuality removed. No politicians said they were agreed with leaving homosexuality in the law.

Gay group Equality California says that the current law “institutes bigotry” against gay people.

So far, the only opposition against repeal has come from gay cure group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX).

Jeralee Smith, PFOX’s California educational director, attacked the decision to end state funding into studies on homosexuality.

She added: “I just don’t think any door should be closed when we’re trying to stop attacks on children.”