A bill passing through Californian Senate seeks to ban so-called ‘reparative therapy’ for gay men and women below the age of 18, and would force psychiatrists to inform older patients of the many mental and physical harms such ‘therapies’ might cause.
The ‘therapy,’ which is often dubbed the ‘ex-gay’ movement, asserts that gay and bisexual people can alter their sexuality, and ‘become’ heterosexual, though the methods advocated by groups differ. ‘Aversion therapy’, which pairs electric shock to gay porn, and ‘therapy through prayer,’ which uses religion as the basis to advocate ‘conversion’ are the most common variants.
The American Psychological Association, the World Health Organisation, and most other professional psychiatric/psychological organisations have statements or policies to the effect that there is no credible evidence that such ‘therapies’ have the purported effect, and indeed can cause more harm than any ostensible change.
The legislation, Californian Senate Bill 1172, is authored by Democratic Senator Ted Lieu, and sponsored by the LGBT advocacy group, Equality California. The bill will also require explicit consent from ‘patients’ before any such ‘therapy’ is administered.
Clarissa Figlioun, Board President of Equality California, said in a statement: “It’s long past time to do everything in our power to put an end to the use of therapy tactics that have no sound scientific basis and that cause lifelong damage.” Sources suggest that the Governer of the state, Jerry Brown, is certain to sign the bill into law.
The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), however, is set to oppose the bill. An e-mail alert from NARTH reads: ”While this is a direct assault on everyone’s freedom it is also a not so subtle attack on religious liberty… Individuals of faith often seeking to live lives congruent with their religious convictions are often motivated to seek help for their homosexual attractions. This type of legislation would in effect criminalize those formerly ethical relationships between a client and their therapist unless those interactions were supervised by agents of the state.”
NARTH has previously used a now retracted study by Dr Robert Spitzer, which claimed that “highly motivated” people can change their sexual orientation, though, notably, his study only looked into the conversion of gay and bisexual people into heterosexuals, and not the other way around.