The California Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill that would prohibit mental health providers in the state from attempting to change the sexual orientation of minors.
“This, in my opinion, is an abusive practice in the guise of therapy,” said California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, the first openly-gay man in the nation to hold the position of Speaker of a legislative body. He described the practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation, sometimes called reparative therapy, as dehumanizing and damaging.
The bill, S.B. 117, “helps protect children from activities, as well meaning as they may be, that subject them to incredible challenges to their humanity and put their lives at risk,” Perez said.
The California Assembly voted 52-21 in favor of the bill, which was authored by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D) and co-sponsored by Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gaylesta, Mental Health America of Northern California, Lambda Legal, and the Courage Campaign. The bill will return to the Senate for a vote to concur in amendments made in the Assembly before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) desk.
The bill completely bans reparative therapy for those under 18. For adult patients, the bill mandates a consent form that states “a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder” and notes the therapy could be harmful.
“I wish the law had protected me and my family from this abusive practice when I was a teenager,” Ryan Kendall, who was subjected to the therapy, said in a statement released by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“I am lucky that I survived, but I will never be able to recover the years I lost to feeling worthless and suicidal because a state-licensed therapist convinced my family that being gay is a mental illness and that who I am is shameful and wrong. These practices are child abuse, pure and simple, and I look forward to seeing Governor Brown sign this bill into law.”
[Young man with Gay Pride flag via Shutterstock]