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New bill bans ‘pray the gay away’ therapy for minors in California

Photo: Flickr/Jamison Wieser

Lawmakers in California have green-lighted a proposal to ban “reparative” therapy, also known as gay “conversion” therapy for children under the age of 18.

The bill, which passed 51-21 in the state’s assembly, requires Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s signature before it can become law. Brown has not yet indicated whether he will support the measure, Reuters reports.

Introduced by Senator Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance), Senate Bill 1172 seeks to “protect children from sexual orientation change efforts” by barring minors from such programs — regardless of parental consent.

These proposed protections do not extend to children receiving pseudo-therapies from religiously affiliated institutions, which remain exempt.

“The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior,” the bill reads in its current form. “Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction.”

The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, known more commonly as NARTH, has pledged to challenge the bill in court, if and when it becomes law. NARTH is an organization committed to enabling individuals to “develop their heterosexual potential,” according to their position statements.

What do you think? Is the California legislature overstepping its bounds on family issues? Or, are lawmakers right to protect children from therapies based in stigma rather than science?


  • Thomas Tarler

    Absolutely. If the therapy tends to hurt children more than anything, it should be banned, no matter how much parental consent is given. 

  • Pugnapped

    Science trumps religion.

  • HarrySatchel

    Nanny state to the rescue, eh? There goes another chunk of freedom

  • Barbeszoo

    Like any issue where the root cause is not apparent, a prescription given is a shot in the dark and no better than voodoo,.   Talk to gays,lesbians and most will tell you that they have been “who they are” early on, from first memory.  Until a proper physical diagnosis can be made as to what makes a person who they are sexually, any treatment is bogus.  I believe the future will divulge that it indeed is a physical difference produced by some twist in nature, but until then,the outcome of any so called treatment may be detrimental. 

  • Sadie

    What about the freedom of these kids to be who they are without someone telling them that they mean nothing to this world if they “stay” gay?

  • swede

    gay -means to be happy , so call it like it is :disfunctional,lack morals,low self*esteem

  • Unbreakable16

    Huh? This is a protection of civil rights! Exactly the opposite of a “nanny state”.

  • Anonymous

    I have mixed views on this.  First, I believe that most gays are born that way – it’s the way they’re hard-wired.  As such, no amount of talk or aversion therapy is ever going to change that.  It will only serve to impress upon the child that they must repress the essence of who they are, their feelings, etc. and pretend to be something they’re not.  Furthermore, there’s a very likely chance that this kind of therapy will inflict harm on the emotional well-being of the child, and probably at the very core of his/her being.  The child will learn to self-loathe and will develop serious self-esteem and self-efficacy issues.  None of this could ever be done by an ethical member of the psychological community who abides by the APA guidelines.

    So I’m wondering just WHO is performing these kinds of therapies?  Anyone conducting any kind of therapy, secular or religious, ought to be required to be properly credentialed to do so.  IMHO, that includes religious organizations who employ such therapies.  I do not believe religious entities should be exempt.

    That being said, I see nothing wrong in a parent taking their child to a child psychologist who specializes in LGBT issues – as long as the goal isn’t to discourage or scare the child “straight”, which doesn’t work.  But a psychologist can be invaluable in helping both parents and child to work through their emotions, as well as help educate both on what to expect.  Sometimes gays DO lead lonely lives, just like everybody else!

    All that aside, there are some kids who really aren’t gay but for other reasons choose that lifestyle.  Rebelliousness, curiosity, or even more likely, a bisexual kid may be forced to choose between straight or gay just because there’s no “place” for him/her as a bisexual!  Studies have shown that bisexuality may be much more prevalent than we had previously thought.

    Bottom line – you can “turn” a kid who was never going down that path for the long haul, but you can’t “turn” a kid who’s hard-wired to be gay just as sure as he needs to breathe.