In a bill that is the first of its kind, California looks set to partially ban so-called ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy that claims to ‘wean people off’ their homosexuality.

The bill, which outlaws such therapies for minors, and requires adults to be told that counselling is ineffectual and probably dangerous, is sponsored by Senator Ted Lieu, who has said that such therapies “can be dangerous” and cause “extreme depression and guilt” which may lead to suicide.” It passed its final Senate Committee yesterday.

The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) quickly condemned the bill as a piece of social engineering. David Pickup, speaking for NARTH, said: “Any therapist worth his salt knows that homosexual feelings commonly occur in victims as a result of abuses. I ought to know because I was one of those boys.”

The ‘conversion 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.

Just last month, Robert Spitzer, the author of a controversial study which said ‘highly motivated’ people can change their sexual orientation, apologised to the gay community for publishing what he admitted was a deeply flawed study.