California moves to ban 'ex-gay' therapies
California's state legislature is looking at banning so called 'ex-gay' therapies as harmful and ineffective.
Senator Ted Lieu who introduced the bill called the controversial therapies "dangerous" because they "cause extreme depression and guilt" that can lead to self-harm and even suicide.
The bill would ban so-called 'reparative therapy' for minors and would ensure adults who wish to undertake such treatment sign a disclaimer stating they are aware the therapy is possibly dangerous to their mental health.
Despite being repudiated by numerous psychological associations, many conservative groups insist that the combination of counselling and prayer can change an individual's sexual orientation.
The conservative and religiously motivated National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality called the bill "social engineering" and claimed it was an attack on religious freedoms.
Spokesperson David Pickup claimed the bill would harm men recovering from sexual abuse.
"Any counselor worth his salt knows that homosexual feelings commonly occur in boys as a result of abuses," Pickup claimed.
"I should know because I was one of those boys."
By contrast Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the world's largest international Christain 'ex-gay' network, confessed in January that the overwhelming majority of people who had undergone 'reparative' therapy had failed to change their sexual orientation.
"The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction," Chambers said at the time.
The American Psychological Association has directed its members since 2009 not to tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy. The Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.
Only last month US psychiatrist Dr Robert Spitzer publicly apologised to the LGBTI community for a study he published in 2001 suggesting some highly motivated people may be able to change sexual orientation through 'reparative' therapy.
Spitzer said his study was based on the word of subjects who claimed to have changed sexuality "but there was no way to determine if the subject's accounts of change were valid."
Nonetheless many anti-gay groups have quoted Spitzer's work as evidence that 'ex-gay' therapies work.
Senator Mark Leno, one of the committee members who approved the bill, said his parents had sent him to a therapist after he told them he may be gay. In his case, he didn't receive 'reparative' therapy because his therapist did not regard same-sex attraction as a disease or disorder.
"There are many that are trapped in this horror situation," Leno said. "And it can have extraordinarily negative impacts."
The bill will now go before the full Californian Senate.