California Bans Gay Conversion Therapy for Kids

Posted October 10, 2012 in Gay and Lesbian issues by

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California has passed a bill outlawing so-called “therapies” aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors. Licensed therapists may no longer offer treatments that try to convince children who identify as gay that they should be straight instead.

The law specifically prohibits practices that set out “to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

There is no scientific evidence that such therapies could be effective, and in fact there is a growing consensus among psychological professionals that they can be harmful to children and provoke depression or worse.

“This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” California governor Jerry Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.

LGBT rights organizations are celebrating a big victory. “It is widely conceded that any therapies to force change of one’s sexual orientation are damaging, harmful, leave enduring emotional scars and in the same way the legislature says minors can’t smoke and minors can’t drink, they are on record as saying minors should not be subjected to this therapy at the hands of licensed therapists,” says Kate Kendell, an attorney and executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “The California legislature, as is true with all lawmakers, has their number one job as defending or protecting the interests of the population, and particularly those that are most vulnerable.”


Citizen Outcry

Kate Kendell

There was an enormous citizen outcry in favor of the bill, with over 100,000 letters supporting the ban sent to lawmakers, including some 50,000 to Gov. Brown. “We saw a huge response from the community and from parents, from LGBT kids and family members,” Kendell says.

Victims of the conversion therapies testified in front of the legislature while it considered the law. “As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called conversion therapy destroyed my life and tore apart my family,” survivor Ryan Kendall told lawmakers. “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.” Kendall said the rejection of his family and faith drove him to consider suicide.

The battle in California may not be totally over. Practitioners of the discredited conversion therapies opposed the bill and are now considering litigation to challenge the new law. LGBT advocacy groups vow they will continue the fight to stop discriminatory practices and push back against reactionary measures sought by people and groups who oppose equality and rights for the nation’s gay citizens.

“Almost any law that provides greater protections and security for LGBT people has been challenged in court,” Kendell says. “Of all the laws we’ve been a part of seeing pass, in any state, this truly has at its core the potential to save lives, so it is a very high priority to see the law defended and become law in California and every other state.”

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