SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A first-of-its-kind ban on a controversial form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay people straight is speeding through the California statehouse.
Supporters say the legislation, which passed its final Senate committee Tuesday, is necessary because such treatments are ineffective and harmful.
“This therapy can be dangerous,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Ted Lieu. The Torrance Democrat added the treatments can “cause extreme depression and guilt” that sometimes leads to suicide.
Conservative religious groups emphatically reject that view of sexual orientation therapy and say the ban would interfere with parents’ rights to seek appropriate psychological care for their children.
The bill would prohibit so-called reparative therapy for minors and obligate adults to sign a release form that states that the counseling is ineffectual and possibly dangerous.
Interest in the religion-based therapy appears to have surged in recent years, sparking debates about whether sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic. Exodus International, the world’s largest Christian referral network dealing with homosexuality, now steers people to 260 groups across the country.
Conservative religious leaders say it is important for families to have access to services as teens first awaken to their sexual orientation.
But mainstream mental health organizations say people should not be seeking out such ministries.
The American Psychological Association said in 2009 that mental health professionals shouldn’t tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy.
The association cited research suggesting that efforts to produce the change could lead to depression and suicidal tendencies, and stated that no solid evidence exists that such change is possible.