Landmark Bill Banning Sexual Orientation Change Therapy for Minors On Governor’s Desk
Psychologists and psychiatrists would be banned from using therapies on minors to change their sexual orientation under legislation sent to Gov. Jerry Brown by lawmakers on August 30.
The landmark measure would prohibit “reparative therapy” from being practiced on persons under the age of 18.
“Few things are more offensive than child abuse and, frankly, that’s what these types of psychological treatments are,” said Sen. Ted Lieu, a Torrance Democrat, in a statement after the passage of his bill, SB 1172.
“These attempts are quackery and this kind of psychological abuse of children must stop.”
Reparative or conversion therapy is behavioral modification or psychoanalytic techniques aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.
At the center of the debate over its efficacy is whether homosexuality or bisexuality is immutable or whether it’s a behavior that can be “cured ” because it may stem from environmental factors like sexual abuse or other trauma which can be worked through by counseling.
Reparative therapy also appears to be favored by those sharing the religious belief that homosexuality is a “sin” and must be purged.
Exodus International, the world’s largest Christian referral network for reparative therapy, reports 260 “ministries, churches and counselors” nationwide. The organization lists 35 affiliates in California including 24 local churches “who embrace individuals affected by homosexuality while holding to Biblical sexual standards.”
A 2009 report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation noted that participants in most recent studies of reparative therapy were “well-educated individuals, predominantly men, who consider religion to be an extremely important part of their lives and participate in traditional or conservative faiths (e.g., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, evangelical Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism.”
Some who had undergone the therapy reported benefits but the task force concluded the studies did not provide “conclusions regarding efficacy or safety.”
Lieu and backers of his bill cite evidence saying sexual orientation is a biologic and genetic condition that can be changed through behavioral modification.
“These therapists are saying to their patients there’s a cure that can eliminate homosexuality and that’s factually not true,” said Rebekah Orr, a spokeswoman for Equality California, the sponsor of Lieu’s bill.
The Democratic governor has not taken a position on Lieu’s bill. He has until September 30 to act.
If enacted, the measure would be the first in the nation.
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