If passed, a California law will make it the first state in the nation to ban controversial therapy aimed at turning gay and lesbian teens straight.
State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), sponsor of the bill, said the so-called reparative therapy wrongly treats homosexuality as a disease and can be harmful to minors.
“Some therapists are taking advantage of vulnerable people by pushing dangerous sexual orientation-change efforts,” Lieu told the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee last week. “These non-scientific efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish.”
As it’s written, SB 1172 would ban juveniles under the age of 18 from undergoing “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) and require adults considering treatment to sign consent forms stating they understand the therapy has no medical basis and the potential dangers.
The bill has already passed two Senate policy committees and is due for a vote on the Senate floor, liking within the next month. If passed, the bill goes on to face the state Assembly before becoming law.
Specific SOCE techniques vary, but may include visualization, behavioral and social skills training, and in extreme cases electroshock or drug-induced behavior modifications.
The American Psychological Association and several other professional organizations have established the position that homosexuality is not a diseases or mental illness, and therefore does not need a cure.
“Clearly, so-called conversion or reparative therapy is scientifically ineffective and has resulted in harm,” Lieu said in a release. “Simply put, this is an unacceptable therapeutic practice.”
According the Lieu, the bill is based on more than 40 years worth of scientific research, but some opponents contend the science behind the measure isn’t so straightforward.
“SB 1172 makes serious errors in its representation of both the issue of change in sexual orientation and in the likelihood of harm,” the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) said in a statement opposing the bill.
NARTH, a professional organization that “offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality,” said the bill “presents the issues of change and harm in a partisan manner” and overly restricts parent’s rights in selecting psychological care for their children, among other critiques.
Lieu’s office told MSNBC that the overall response had been positive, but he had also been the recipient of a slew of hate mail.
Photo via Flickr Sam T (samm4mrox)