Proposed California law would deny same-sex attraction treatment for teens

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California teenagers seeking treatment for unwanted same-sex attractions would be banned from doing so under a proposed law before the state Senate. If approved, the state legislation would make California the first in the nation to implement a ban on such treatment.

The law, which targets a practice known as reparative or conversion therapy, makes no exemptions for parents wishing to seek the treatment for their children or for Christian mental health professionals. Another provision in the law allows for adults who had the therapy as minors, and or their family members, to sue for $5,000 in damages.

Authored by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, the bill, SB 1172, passed through its final Senate committee on May 8 and faces a floor vote at any time before heading to the Assembly.

The law also includes restrictions for adults seeking the treatment by requiring therapists to obtain a signed informed consent form from their clients before proceeding. According to Lieu's office, the form must include a statement indicating that their clients "understand the potential dangers, including depression and suicide, of reparative therapy and that it has no medical basis."

The mandated text for the form would read:

"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 have not been shown to be safe or effective and can, in fact, be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, and suicide."

The form must also include statements critical of the practice from the American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs and National Association of Social Workers.

"Some therapists are taking advantage of vulnerable people by pushing dangerous sexual orientation-change efforts," Lieu said at the May 8 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "These non-scientific efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish."

Reparative therapy, espoused by numerous national mental health organizations, provides treatments for patients with unwanted same-sex attractions to become ex-gays. Thousands of gays and lesbians have testified to the success of the treatment and have gone on to live successfully as heterosexuals.

Exodus International, for example, has more than 260 member agencies in North America and is the nation's largest Christian ministry for men and women dealing with same-sex attraction, though it is not involved in reparative therapy work.


A true believer
David Pickup, a registered California therapist, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying he is proof the treatment works.

"I will admit there is quackery out there," the therapist told the committee. "But reparative therapy, which is what I do, authentic reparative therapy, is absolutely based on science, good research and it works."

The method is also endorsed by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which said the proposed legislation ignores solid research extolling the benefits of the treatment for those wishing to leave the gay lifestyle.

Opponents of the therapy, however, insist that homosexuality is not a medical condition and that attempts to convert are not only unethical, but also harmful.

"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 testified. "The medical community is unanimous in stating that homosexuality is not a medical condition."

Officials from NARTH, however, disagree and testified in the Senate hearing that scientific assumptions used to support the need for the law were based on biased studies and misrepresentations about the therapy, which Lieu referred to as Sexual Orientation Change Efforts in his bill.

For instance, NARTH maintains that the committee who drafted a 2009 American Psychological Association report cited by SB 1172 excluded anyone who practiced the treatment or was sympathetic to its benefits.

"(It) ended up being comprised of professionals who essentially were in ideological lock step with one another in their preconceived notions regarding SOCE," said a letter to the committee by NARTH President Christopher H. Rosik, Ph.D.

In addition, NARTH officials said that the bill ignores research favorable toward reparative therapy.

"We believe that SB 1172 would make for bad law based on its misrepresentation of the science pertaining to SOCE, its potential to unnecessarily restrict client and parental choices, and its assumption of the regulatory functions of mental health associations and licensing boards," Rosik wrote.

If successful in both chambers the SB 1172 would then advance to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. Brown has historically approved bills supportive of the gay and lesbian agenda.