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California Senate committee advances bill to limit reparative therapy

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Legislation designed to protect LGBT minors from what critics charge is harmful and ineffective ex-gay therapy, advanced through a California state Senate Committee on Monday.

The measure, California Senate Bill 1172, does not outright ban all ex-gay therapy, but would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from undergoing sexual orientation change efforts, regardless of a parent’s willingness or desire to authorize such “treatments.”

The bill — authored by State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Redondo Beach) and sponsored by the LGBT advocacy group, Equality California — would also require prospective patients to sign a consent form that includes 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. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful.”

“For decades, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—particularly youth—have suffered psychological abuse by those who are entrusted to care for their emotional and psychological well-being,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California Board President.

“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,” she said.

A legislative aide to California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, told LGBTQ Nation that if approved by the state legislature, Brown will almost certainly sign the bill into law.

Numerous mental health care professionals and their organizations, including 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, oppose the use of reparative therapy, citing risks that include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

One of the leading proponents of “ex-gay” therapy, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), opposed the measure.

In a statement, NARTH said, “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,” said NARTH.

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.

Supporters of SB 1172 have labeled it model legislation that applies scientific knowledge to the benefit of the general welfare of all citizens.

Supporters also indicated that SB 1172 is an important step forward to protect gay youth and limit the dangerous, traumatic negative impact of ex-gay therapy.

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