California Bans Conversion Therapy For Gay Teens
October 2, 2012

Controversial Conversion Therapy Banned in California

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

With the upcoming presidential debate, important policy issues are sure to be a highlight of the event. Many of these issues may concern the LGBT community. On the state level, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that allowed California to be the first state to ban a form of psychotherapy that focuses on converting gay teenagers to straight youths. The ban affirmed that, starting on January 1, mental health practitioners cannot use reparative or conversion therapy to change the sexual preferences of those who are under 18 years of age.

SB 1172 was authored by California Senator Ted Lieu and sponsored by the Courage campaign, Equality California, Gaylesta, Lambda Lega, Mental Health of North America, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The Human Rights Campaign noted that it collected almost 50,000 signatures with a petition that encouraged Brown to sign the law.

"We're grateful to Governor Brown for standing with California's children. LGBT youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being,” remarked Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a prepared statement. “We commend Governor Brown for putting children first, and call on all states to take California´s lead on this issue. We will continue our fight against this kind of child abuse, which has been deemed harmful to children by all major mental health, medical, and child welfare organizations.”

According to the Associated Press (AP), in the past, various organizations representing psychiatrists and psychologists have rejected these therapies. The list includes the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American School Counselor Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Association of Social Works, California State Board of Behavior Sciences, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, the California Psychologist Association, as well as the Pan American Health Organization.

“California´s lawmakers should be praised for moving to protect children from the serious and lasting harm that comes from this illegitimate and unsupported ℠therapy.´ Senator Lieu and his staff have worked tirelessly for months with major professional associations to ensure that this bill would protect children from the damage that can result from so-called reparative therapy while ensuring that it would not interfere with appropriate, legitimate therapies that provide understanding and support to LGBT youth,” remarked therapist Ben Caldwell, the chair of the legislative and advocacy committee for the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, in a prepared statement from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. (NCLR).

As well, there have been few studies that have looked at the effectiveness of these methods of conversion through prayer or other religious effects.

"These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery," noted Brown on his Twitter feed, following the signing of the ban.

Brown addressed the consequences that the therapy has had on adolescents.

"This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide," noted Brown in an article by the AFP news agency.

Individuals spoke about their experiences with the controversially therapy in August during a meeting of the California Legislature.

“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,” expressed Ryan Kendall, a teen who had undergone the treatment under a licensed California therapist in the NCLR statement. “I am lucky that I survived, but I will never be able to recover the years I lost to feeling worthless and suicidal because a state-licensed therapist convinced my family that being gay is a mental illness and that who I am is shameful and wrong.”

On the other hand, AP reported that some groups have stated that prohibiting the banning conversion therapy would be detrimental to psychological care administered of children who show signs of gender confusion.