Senate panel cracks down on deceptive sexual-orientation conversion ‘therapies’

April 23, 2012
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Sen. Ted W. Lieu bill would be first in nation to regulate conversion therapy

SACRAMENTO – A key professions-review panel today approved a patient-protection plan by Sen. Ted W. Lieu that promises to help raise public awareness of bogus and unethical therapies by mental-health providers who promise to help change a person’s sexual orientation.

“Under the guise of a California license, some therapists are taking advantage of vulnerable people by pushing dangerous sexual orientation-change efforts,” Lieu said after the 5-3 vote by the nine-member Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. “These bogus efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish.  This is junk science and it must stop.”

Senate bill 1172 would ban children under 18 from undergoing so-called sexual orientation-change efforts and would require adults seeking such treatment to sign informed consent forms indicating they understand the potential dangers, including depression and suicide, of reparative therapy and that it has no medical basis. 

“Being lesbian or gay is not a disease or mental disorder for the same reason that being a heterosexual is not a disease or a mental disorder,” Lieu said. “The medical community is unanimous in stating that homosexuality is not a medical condition.”

Citing nearly 40 years of research by mental health experts, SB 1172 is based on the following:
• An individual’s sexual orientation, whether homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual, is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency or shortcoming.
• Sexual orientation change efforts pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicide, substance abuse, stress, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and a host of anger, dysfunction and dehumanized feelings.
• There is insufficient evidence that any type of psychotherapy can change a person’s sexual orientation.  Instead, sexual orientation therapy in some cases has caused serious and lasting harm.

“Clearly, so-called conversion or reparative therapy is scientifically ineffective and has resulted in much harm,” Lieu said. “Simply put, this is an unacceptable therapeutic practice.”

SB 1172 now faces review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  No hearing date has yet been set, but may likely be May 8.

For more, including a Fact Sheet on SB 1172, visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below or contact Lieu’s office.
Ted W. Lieu chairs the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as portions of Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro. For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu