Calif. Senate Advances Bill to Ban Conversion Therapy for Minors
The California State Senate advanced a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit minors from undergoing controversial "ex-gay" therapy, Reuters reported.
The state moves one step closer to being the first in the country to ban conversion therapy -- a "treatment" some believe can turn gay men and woman straight. Gay rights advocates and several leading medical and mental health organizations, however, say the method can cause depression and other damaging side effects because homosexuality is not a disease.
In late April a California Senate committee passed the bill and the legislation was again approved by a 23-13 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate on Wednesday. The bill will now need to be passed by the state Assembly and signed by Governor Jerry Brown (D) before it can go into effect.
The legislation states that anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited from receiving "sexual orientation change efforts" and also requires patients to sign an "informed consent form," which has the following disclaimer:
"Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person's sexual orientation," the disclaimer reads. "Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior."
"Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy."
Reuters notes it is expected that the Assembly will vote on the bill within a month.
"These therapies are dangerous," Senator Ted Lieu, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said. Lieu brought up the case of Ryan Kendall -- a gay rights advocate who went under conversion therapy as a child.
"(Ryan) was told that being gay made God cry," Lieu said. "He testified that for 10 years of his life, he wanted to commit suicide. He has not done that and now he is speaking out against this type of therapy."
The civil rights group Equality California applauded the bill's advancement.
"Too many young people have taken their own lives or suffered lifelong harm after being told, falsely, by a therapist or counselor that who they are is wrong, sick or the result of personal or moral failure," Clarissa Filgioun, the organization's president, said in a statement.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights group based in Alabama, reported last March that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a leading group that offers "ex-gay" therapy, is "preeminent source of what many regard as junk science for the religious right."
Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist and a leading "ex-gay" therapist, retracted his findings for a controversial 2001 study that said conversion therapy works and has the ability to turn gays straight.
"In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct," Spitzer said. "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more."
He also said that the therapy "can be quite harmful." When he was asked why he retracted his study he said it was "so I don't have to worry about it anymore."