California law bans gay teen 'conversion' therapy

October 1, 2012 - 1:34 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has become the first state to ban a controversial form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he had signed SB1172 by Democratic Senator Ted Lieu of Torrance. The law, which prohibits sexual orientation change efforts for anyone under 18, will stop children from being psychologically abused, Lieu said.

Effective Jan. 1, the state will ban what is known as reparative or conversion therapy for minors. The therapies "have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery," Brown said in a statement.

Mainstream mental health organizations have disavowed such therapy, and a number of mental health associations in California — including the state's Board of Behavorial Sciences, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the California Psychological Association — supported the legislation.

Gay rights groups have called the practice dangerous because it can put youth at higher risk of depression and suicide.

"We're grateful to Gov. Brown for standing with California's children," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. "LGBT youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being."

The group called on other states to follow California's lead on the issue.

Conservative religious groups and some Republicans have argued that banning conversion therapy would hinder parents' right to provide psychological care for children experiencing gender confusion.

The Encino, Calif.-based National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality said in August that the bill was a case of "legislative overreach," and Lieu's claims of harm to children were based on politics, not research.