Crackdown on deceptive ‘therapies’ for gay orientation clears final policy hurdle

June 26, 2012
04-28-11 SB 746 Ted at Podium.jpg

SB 1172 would be nation’s first law regulating gay-to-straight conversions
SACRAMENTO – A key Assembly business-policy panel today approved a patient-protection plan that would make California the first state in the nation to end unethical treatments that promise to change a person’s sexual orientation.

“The entire medical community is opposed to these phony therapies,” Sen. Ted W. Lieu, D-Torrance, said after the Assembly Business and Professions Committee approved his Senate Bill 1172. “Just a few months ago the man who brought any legitimacy to reparative therapy, Dr. Robert Spitzer, renounced his study and apologized to the LGBT community.  Everyone agrees that this quackery needs to stop.”

If signed into law, Lieu’s patient-protection plan would help end bogus and unethical therapies by mental-health providers who promise to change a person’s sexual orientation.

These non-scientific efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish, according to testimony from survivors.

As written, SB 1172 would prohibit therapists from subjecting those under 18 from undergoing sexual orientation-change efforts.
Bolstering Lieu’s arguments today was emotional testimony from two Californians who underwent sexual orientation change efforts while teenagers, James Guay and Ryan Kendall.

“At the heart of this treatment is the non-medically based belief that there is something wrong with any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality,” Guay, of Beverly Hills, told committee members. “This purported medical advice directed at children can, in and of itself, cause great harm.”

Kendall, who attends college in New York and has family in Long Beach, agreed.

“As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called conversion therapy destroyed my life and tore apart my family,” Kendall testified. “In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family.”

Added Lieu: “Being lesbian or gay or bisexual is not a disease or mental disorder for the same reason that being a heterosexual is not a disease or a mental disorder. 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, hopelessness, shame, suicide, self-hatred, 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 harm,” Lieu said. “SB 1172 will help save lives and protect children from harmful sham therapies.”

SB 1172 now goes to the Assembly Floor. No date has yet been set for a vote. 

For more, including a Fact Sheet on SB 1172, survivor testimony and links to studies, a YouTube video of the hearing 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