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California moves closer to banning 'gay cure' therapy for teens

Rich Pedroncelli / AP, file

California state Sen. Ted Lieu says therapy that seeks to change a child's sexual orientation amounts to psychological abuse.

California has moved one step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to ban “gay cure” therapy for teens.

The Democratic-controlled state Assembly on Tuesday voted 52-22 to approve a bill that would prohibit licensed therapists from providing so-called “sexual orientation change efforts” to children under 18.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which approved an earlier version in May, for concurrence on amendments. The Senate must act no later than midnight Friday for the bill to be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Brown, a Democrat, has not indicated whether he will sign the measure.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, says treatments that attempt to change a gay kid into a straight kid are harmful and amount to "psychological abuse of children."

“These non-scientific efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish,” Lieu said in a press release hailing the vote.

Ricardo Lara, an openly gay Democratic assemblyman from Los Angeles County, said the bill would protect “the next generation of Californians.”

"And some of those are sissy boys,” Lara said, Reuters reported. “And some of those sissy boys grow up to be Assembly members. And some of those sissy boys need help. And we are here to stand with those sissy boys."

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Opponents said during debate that the bill intrudes on the rights of parents to make choices for their children’s care.

"That's why parents have children -- to hand down their legacies, their belief systems, the way they want their children raised," Assembly member Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Jim Burroway, editor of Box Turtle Bulletin, which reports on news affecting gays and lesbians, noted the version passed by the Assembly has been watered down to win the backing of state mental health professional organizations:

When the bill was first introduced into the Senate, there were additional provisions which would have required that adults undergoing SOCE to sign a state-mandated informed consent form, and it would have left therapists open to fines of $$5,000 or “actual damages, or statutory damages” if the client later determined that he or she had been harmed by the therapy or if the therapist had contravened California’s restrictions on SOCE. Due to objections from several mental health organizations, the state-mandated informed consent form was dropped, and the fines were eliminated in favor of a new clause which subjects the licensed therapist “to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.” The bill affects licensed therapists only. It does not affect religious-based ex-gay ministries or unlicensed pastors, counselors or self-described “life coaches.”

In an op-ed column earlier this week in the Los Angeles Times, Lara Embry, a clinical psychologist who is married to actress Jane Lynch, said that the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the American Psychiatric Association all declared long ago that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is not a form of mental illness or defect. She wrote:

“Many parents struggle to accept their children as they are, and this makes them vulnerable to the misrepresentations of therapists who offer false reassurances that "no child is really gay." As long as there continues to be a market for these fraudulent treatments, they will be offered, and children will be harmed — unless the law is changed and parents are better educated about how to cope with a child who may be gay or gender nonconforming.”

Previous stories:

Christian group backs away from gay ‘cure’
California weighs bill to ban gay teen ‘conversion’ therapy
London bans ‘gay cure’ ads from buses

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