The Californian state senate last night approved a bill to ban the use of so-called conversion therapies on minors which attempt to alter their sexual orientation.
Senate Bill 1172 will now be voted on by the state Assembly before heading to the Governor’s office, where it would become the first law in the US banning ex-gay therapies.
The bill, authored by Senator Ted Lieu and sponsored by a number of advocacy groups including Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Mental Health America of Northern California and Lambda Legal.
The draft law was passed 23 to 13.
Senator Ted Lieu had warned of the danger posed by the therapies in question, which he said could cause “extreme depression and guilt” which may lead to suicides among young people.
He said: “Being lesbian or gay or bisexual is not a disease or mental disorder for the same reason that being a heterosexual is not a disease or a mental disorder.
“The medical community is unanimous in stating that homosexuality is not a medical condition.”
Opposing the measure before the senate vote, David Pickup of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality 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.”
NARTH said there was no evidence that efforts to change sexual orientation definitely do not work and added that the harm the bill would protect against can be experienced in all forms of psychotherapy.
In a statement last month, NARTH said: “What we can say with confidence is that some SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] clients report harm and others report benefit and we do not know from the scientific literature how often either outcome occurs.”
Senator Lieu said: “It’s not just that people are wasting their time and money on these therapies that don’t work. These therapies are dangerous.”
Bill co-sponsors Equality California said ahead of the vote yesterday: “Sexual orientation change efforts pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, risky behavior and suicidality.
“Recognizing that there is no evidence that any type of psychotherapy can change a person’s sexual orientation, and that sexual orientation change efforts may cause serious and lasting harms, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics uniformly oppose efforts to change the sexual orientation of any individual.”
Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California’s Board President said after the senate vote: “Too many young people have taken their own lives or suffered lifelong harm after being told, falsely, by a therapist or counsellor that who they are is wrong, sick or the result of personal or moral failure.
“Legislative action is long overdue to end the abuse of sexual orientation change efforts and for the state to fulfill its duty to protect consumers—especially youth—from therapeutic misconduct.”