SAN FRANCISCO — California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday made history by signing a landmark legislation banning psychological therapy aimed at turning gay and lesbian youth straight — often referred to as reparative therapy.
With Brown’s signature, California becomes the first state in the nation to prohibit licensed mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts of any kind for a minor patient, regardless of a parent’s willingness or desire to authorize participation in such programs.
Authored by State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrence), Senate Bill 1172 was co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations.
“Governor Brown today reaffirmed what medical and mental health organizations have made clear: Efforts to change minors’ sexual orientation are not therapy, they are the relics of prejudice and abuse that have inflicted untold harm on young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president.
“We thank Senator Ted Lieu and Governor Brown for their efforts in making California a leader in banning this deceptive and harmful practice,” she said.
Ryan Kendall, a survivor of the practice who testified in the Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8, described his experience earlier this summer to the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee:
“As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called conversion therapy destroyed my life and tore apart my family.
“In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family.
“At the age of 16, I had lost everything. My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide.”
“Governor Brown has sent a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBT youth and their families,” said Kate Kendall, NCLR Executive Director. “This law will ensure that state-licensed therapists can no longer abuse their power to harm LGBT youth and propagate the dangerous and deadly lie that sexual orientation is an illness or disorder that can be ‘cured.’”
Lieu said he proposed the measure based on concern by medical groups involving psychologists and psychiatrists that the therapy is not based on sound scientific principles.
“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,” Lieu said. “The medical community is unanimous in stating that homosexuality is not a medical condition.”
In addition to the SB 1172’s sponsors, the bill was supported by dozens of organizations, including a number of mental health organizations, including: The California Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (California Division), the National Association of Social Workers (CA Chapter), the California Latino Psychological Association, and the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies.
The law goes into effect January 1, 2013.