SAN FRANCISCO -- Gay rights advocates are making plans to get other states to join California in banning psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight, even as opponents prepared Monday to sue to overturn the first law in the nation to take aim at the practice.
After months of intense lobbying, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill late Saturday that prohibits licensed mental health professionals from using so-called reparative or conversion therapies with clients under age 18. Brown called the therapies "quackery" that "have no basis in science or medicine."
Two New Jersey lawmakers already are drafting similar legislation, while groups that helped get the California law passed are sharing research, witnesses and talking points with counterparts in other gay-friendly states, said Geoff Kors, senior legislative and policy strategist for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.
"There are lots of folks today who are looking at this, now that the governor has signed it," Kors said. "We'll be reaching out to all the state (gay rights) groups, especially in states that have had success passing LGBT rights legislation."
The law only applies to licensed therapists, not ministers or lay people who counsel teens to resist same-sex attractions.
Two Christian legal groups, meanwhile, said they would sue in federal court in Sacramento to prevent the law from taking effect on Jan. 1.
The lawsuits will be filed on behalf of therapists whose practices include efforts to help clients change their sexual orientations or reduce their attractions to people of the same-sex; parents who have sought such therapy for their children; and teenagers who currently are undergoing it, lawyers for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute and Florida-based Liberty Counsel said.
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said his organization plans to argue in court that the law infringes on the First Amendment and equal protection rights of individuals to give and receive information that matches their personal and professional beliefs.
"What this law does is tell minors that they can no longer receive information about same-sex attractions that they have been receiving and that they find beneficial to them," Staver said. "It also puts counselors in a situation where they must present only one viewpoint of this subject."
The law Brown signed states that mental health providers who use sexual orientation change efforts on clients under 18 would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by their respective state licensing boards.
Mainstream associations representing psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers have dismissed reparative therapy in recent decades as being ineffective and potentially dangerous to the mental health of teenagers and young adults who are led to believe their interest in same-sex partners is wrong.
As originally written, the bill introduced by state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, also would have required therapists to warn adult patients of the practice's risks and limitations and to obtain their written consent before engaging in it.
Lieu dropped the informed consent provision, however, after a number of mental health associations in California – including the California Psychological Association and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists – complained that it interfered with the therapist-client relationship.
Both groups, as well as the other leading professional groups, ultimately endorsed the ban for juveniles.
It remained unclear how many practitioners and patients the law would affect.
David Pruden, vice president of the California-based National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality, a professional association that supports treatment for homosexuality, estimated there are two dozen therapists statewide who engage in efforts to change sexual orientation, and not all of them treat adolescents.
The association plans to be a plaintiff in the Liberty Counsel lawsuit, with its support based mostly on the law's symbolic effect than its consequences for large numbers of California teens and their counselors, Pruden said.
"If you said, realistically, how many hamburgers did you think you weren't going to sell at McDonald's because of the new pickle law, the answer is not very many," he said. "Then the question becomes should we be legislating pickles."
Staver thinks the law could impact hundreds of licensed Christian psychotherapists and their teen clients from religious families nationwide. Depending on how it's enforced, California therapists who treat clients in other states via Skype, and therapists in other states who conduct telephone sessions with California residents could be investigated for misconduct, he said.
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Bachmann's Alleged Involvement
In July,gay advocacy group Truth Wins Out released video footage allegedly shot undercover at the Christian-affiliated Minnesota clinic owned by Michele Bachmann and her husband, and claimed to find evidence of conversion therapy being performed on the premises. "Michele Bachmann wants to be in the Oval Office and wants to be the president of the United States," Wayne Besen, "It's important to know what her true beliefs are and what goes on in this clinic."
'Gay Barbarian Horde' Invades Bachmann's Clinic
Last July activists dressed as "gay barbarians" traveled to Bachmann's clinic to protest its alleged "pray the gay away" practices. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/21/michele-bachmanns-glitter-prank_n_906165.html" target="_hplink">A press release issued by the group reads:</a> <blockquote>Today a horde of gay barbarians descended upon Michele and Marcus Bachmann's "pray away the gay" clinic and demanded that Marcus come out and discipline them for their "deviant" behavior. Marcus Bachmann, who conducts "reparative therapy" at the clinic intended to convert homosexuals, has said that gays are "barbarians who need to be disciplined." The horde requested to speak directly with Bachmann and experience some "discipline" for themselves. When Marcus was no where to be found, the barbarians glittered the empty waiting room and reception area while chanting, "You can't pray away the gay -- baby, I was born this way!" The action was organized by the same young man who threw glitter on Newt Gingrich, starting a national trend in political protest of anti-LGBT sentiments from political candidates and campaigns. "Michele and Marcus Bachmann think gay people are barbarians?" asked LGBT activist Nick Espinosa. "I think its clear to everyone who the real barbarians are, based on the Bachmanns' archaic views on LGBT equality."</blockquote>
Gay Conversion Therapy Victim Comes Forward
Earlier this month, "I'm From Driftwood" featured a video interview with Samuel Brinton, who was raised in rural Iowa and subjected to forced Christian conversion therapy. "We then went into the 'Month of Hell,'" Brinton explained. "The 'Month of Hell' consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I'd be electrocuted."
Prominent 'Ex-Gay' Doctor Retracts Claims Made In Key Gay Conversion Therapy Study
This week the psychiatrist who published a controversial 2001 study proclaiming that "highly motivated" gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/robert-spitzer-ex-gay-psychiatrist-retraction_n_1417679.html?ref=gay-voices" target="_hplink">retracted his initial claims.</a> Psychiatrist Bob Spitzer, who had ironically led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, told American Prospect that he now wants to retract his study, 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. "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more."
John Smid Discusses 'Praying The Gay Away' With Chris Matthews
The former director of the ex-gay Christian ministry Love in Action <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/20/john-smid-former-ex-gay-minister-sexual-orientation-_n_1022417.html#s423190&title=Gay_Conversion_Therapy" target="_hplink">came forward last October</a> to say that not only that he is gay, but that he believes it is impossible to change one's sexual orientation. Though Smid admitted he did "experience homosexuality" on the show, he arguably stopped short of embracing his sexual orientation. "I would say predominately, I am attracted to men," he said. "At the same time, I've chosen to be married [to a woman] and a lot of people make that choice."
Not Born This Way?
Richard Cohen, director of the International Healing Foundation and author of "Coming Out Straight" and "Gay Children, Straight Parents," believes that people can change. "There is no credible scientific evidence to suggest either a genetic or biologic basis for homosexual desires in men or women," he said. "So people are not born this way...it's always a confounding of many different factors that lead people to experience these desires...people don't choose this, the choice is: do they want to lead that life, or do they want to change?"
Gay To Straight With Prayer?
In an appearance on "Dr. Drew" earlier this year, psychologist Joseph Nicolosi -- a founding member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) -- said he continues to support conversion therapy: "People can change, people have a choice, people should be given a choice," he said. "If a person chooses to exercise his heterosexual potential...we provide that therapy...it doesn't work for all people, but it works for some."
Pat Robertson Advises Father To Seek Conversion Therapy For His Gay Son