The California state Senate has passed a bill that supporters say could be the first in the nation to ban a form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay people straight.
"The entire medical community is opposed to these phony therapies," California state Sen. Ted W. Lieu said after his groundbreaking bill on "sexual-orientation change efforts" passed May 30 by a 23-13 vote.
"Everyone agrees that this quackery needs to stop," he said.
The bill bans children younger than 18 from receiving "change" therapy, regardless of their or their parents' wishes.
Opponents of the bill say it is an unconstitutional suppression of speech and denies the existence of "ex-gays."
"We cannot afford to let the state invade the counseling room or doctor's office to dictate what views on sexuality are acceptable and unacceptable," said Matthew McReynolds, a staff attorney at the Pacific Justice Institute.
The bill now goes to the Assembly where Speaker Pro Tem Fiona Ma is co-author of the bill.
Mr. Lieu told The Washington Times on Friday that he became interested in the issue after seeing a television investigative report about patients who went through "reparative therapy" and "how one of them later committed suicide."
"I did some more research into it, and it was clear that this [suicide] was not an isolated incident," said Mr. Lieu, a Democrat from Torrance.
"Unfortunately, a lot of parents send their children into this, in the hopes that their children will somehow get quote-unquote fixed," he said. But studies say not only does reparative therapy not work, but it can be harmful, he said, adding that when Equality California asked him this year to take the lead on a bill to outlaw it, "I jumped at that opportunity."
His bill says people who have tried to change their sexual orientation through therapy face risks for "confusion, depression, guilt, hopelessness, shame, suicide, self-hatred, decreased self-esteem and a host of anger, dysfunction and dehumanized feelings."
It also says the state "has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors," including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), "and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts."
Therefore, "[u]nder no circumstances" shall a patient under age 18 receive sexual-orientation change efforts, "regardless of the willingness of the patient, patient's parent, guardian, conservator, or other person to authorize such efforts," the bill says.
Clarissa Filgioun, president of the board of directors of Equality California, said the bill could one day "make California the first state in the nation to ban licensed mental-health professionals from engaging in sexual-orientation change efforts of any kind for a minor patient."
The bill allows the state to "fulfill its duty to protect consumers - especially youth - from therapeutic misconduct," she said.
Same-sex behaviors, attractions and orientations "are normal and positive experiences" and therapeutic interventions should be aimed at "helping clients come to terms with their sexual orientation," instead of seeking to change them, said Gaylesta: LGBT Psychotherapy Association, which is also a co-sponsor of the bill with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal and Mental Health America of Northern California.
Passage of Mr. Lieu's bill would be "a tragic blow to parental rights," said the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which represents mental-health professionals who assist people with unwanted same-sex attractions.
A "truly scientific approach" would be to have more and better research about change therapies instead of "a ban that runs roughshod over professional judgment and parental choice," said psychologist Christopher Rosik, president of the association.
"We are one giant step closer to seeing one of the most chilling suppressions of speech yet in the never-ending LGBT push to silence opposition," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute. "This is clearly no longer about civil rights - it is about eradicating traditional viewpoints."
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