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California bill would protect youth from ex-gay therapy

A California Senate committee has advanced legislation intended to protect those under 18 from undergoing so-called “ex-gay” therapy.

The long-disproved therapy still has practitioners on the Christian right, most notably Marcus Bachmann, husband of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The California legislation, SB 1172, would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from undergoing efforts to change sexual orientation. The bill states, “Under no circumstances shall a patient under 18 years of age undergo sexual orientation change efforts, regardless of the willingness of a patient’s parent, guardian, conservator, or other person to authorize such efforts.”

The measure also requires that a prospective patient sign an informed consent form. That form would contain a disclosure that reads, “Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.”

The proposed legislation cites research documenting the harmful effects of the therapy:

“Minors who experience family rejection based on their sexual orientation face especially serious health risks. In one study, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.”

Ex-gay therapy is opposed by the nation’s major medical and mental health groups, including American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

The practice is supported by a marginal group called National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality or NARTH, which opposes the model legislation in California.

NARTH said the bill would “threaten the right of individuals with unwanted homosexual attractions to receive therapy.”

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