The California State Assembly has approved a groundbreaking ban on so-called "ex-gay" or reparative therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation in minors.
The San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports that the assembly voted 52-21 in favor of Senate Bill 1172, which will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth from treatments administered by mental health practitioners that claim to be able "to change their sexual orientation or gender expression." The practice, often referred to as "conversion" therapy, has repeatedly been criticized by the American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association and American Psychiatric Association, among other groups, according to the Desert Sun.
Having approved an earlier version of the bill in May, the California Senate must now concur on amendments no later than midnight Aug. 31 for the bill to be sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.
"It’s heartening to see the majority of the Assembly agrees that this kind of so-called ‘treatment’ essentially is psychological abuse of children,” Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance is quoted by CBS as saying. “Even the person who brought any legitimacy to this kind of psychological technique, Dr. Robert Spitzer, renounced his study and apologized to the LGBT community."
Spitzer, the psychiatrist who published a controversial 2001 study proclaiming that "highly motivated" gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation, retracted those initial claims in April, while addressing several of the ample criticisms against its findings.
"In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct," said the 80-year-old Spitzer, who is now retired and suffering from Parkinson's disease, told American Prospect. “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”
Among those to praise the move was Ryan Kendall, who was subjected to "ex-gay" treatments by a licensed California therapist as a teenager, and later testified about his experiences during the 2010 Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Prop 8, the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
Noting that the experience "destroyed my life and tore apart my family," Kendall, now 29, stated in an email statement via the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), "I wish the law had protected me and my family from this abusive practice when I was a teenager. 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."