California Gov. Jerry Brown. Photo: Christina House / LA Times
The sexual reorientation therapy ban, SB1172, was signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday.The bill, authored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-CA), prohibits therapy that claims to change the sexual orientation of minors. This type of controversial therapy is also known as reparative or conversion therapy. The law will go into effect January 1, 2013.
“No one should stand idly by while children are being psychological abused, and anyone who forces a child to try to change their sexual orientation must understand this is unacceptable,” Lieu said in a press release. “Governor Brown should be commended for protecting LGBT youth by ending this type of quackery.”
According to an American Psychological Association resolution, the APA reaffirms its position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, but "a normal and positive variation of human sexuality" and it opposes portrayals of sexual minority youths and adults as mentally ill. The resolution states that, "the American Psychological Association concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation."
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi is a California based psychologist who offers such therapy and founding member of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. His website states that his version of "repartative therapy" involves finding the root causes that set individuals up for same-sex attractions and creating a solution.
"This is not about making people feel bad about their choice to be gay," he stated in a video address.
The Pacific Justice Institute, a legal defense organization, issued a press release stating that they filed a lawsuit against the bill on Monday. Christopher Rosik, president of NARTH announced that his organization will lend its full support to the legal efforts to overturn the law.
The bill states that attempts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks. There is an exhaustive list of negative effects including depression, guilt, social withdrawal, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, increased self-hatred and engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors.
Ryan Kendall, who said he was treated by Nicolosi when he was 13, told CNN that he never believed his sexuality was a choice despite the therapy's claims.
"It led to so much pain and struggle. And I want them to know that what they do hurts people. It hurts children. It has no basis in fact. And they need to stop."
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises youth that counseling may be helpful if children are confused about their sexual identity but warns them to avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation.
The Human Rights Campaign gathered 50,000 signatures urging Brown to approve the bill.
"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. We commend Gov. Brown for putting children first, and call on all states to take California's lead on this issue," The Human Rights Campaign blogger, Charlie Joughin, stated.
The bill does not prohibit adults from willingly participating in such programs and it only states that mental health providers cannot practice reorientation therapy. Although the bill is a monumental step for LGBT rights, there are many loopholes for the continuation of such practices.