California gov. signs bill banning ex-gay therapy for youth

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California state Sen. Ted Lieu

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation barring state-licensed therapists from using so-called ex-gay therapy on LGBT youth.

California state Sen. Ted Lieu introduced the bill with co-sponsors National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, Gaylesta, Mental Health America of Northern California, Lambda Legal and the Courage Campaign.

The legislation takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Brown, in a statement in the San Francisco Chronicle, said, "This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."

The San Francisco-based NCLR, in a news release on Sept. 30, described the legislation as “one of the most important bills NCLR has ever sponsored.”

The organization has provided legal support since 1993 to LGBT youth damaged by psychological abuse and mistreatment by mental health practitioners who told them and their parents that homosexuality was a illness, disease or disorder to be cured.

“We have seen firsthand the terrible, lasting damage caused by these deadly practices,” said NCLR executive director Kate Kendall. “This law provides a powerful tool to make sure that therapists who abuse LGBT youth can be held legally accountable.”

She added, “And just as important, it sends a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBT youth and their families—telling them loud and clear that the state of California will not stand by while state-licensed therapists abuse their power to harm LGBT youth and propagate the deadly lie that sexual orientation is an illness or disorder that can be ‘cured.’

“Ex-gay” therapy is not advocated by any mainstream physicians or mental-health practitioners organization. But it is still practiced, mainly by therapists aligned with religious ministries that teach homosexuality is sinful.

Proponents of the legislation included the California Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (California Division), the National Association of Social Workers (CA Chapter), the California Latino Psychological Association, and the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies.

Wayne Besen, of Truth Wins Out, said in a news release, "This is a historic day that protects LGBT youth from child abuse disguised as genuine therapy. We thank Gov. Brown for signing legislation that can serve as a model for similar bills across the nation."

With passage of Lieu’s bill in California, staff at TWO, NCLR and other LGBT civil rights advocates hope to launch campaigns in other states.

“We will not stop until LGBT youth are protected from these dangerous practices everywhere in the country,” said Kendall.