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DESERT OUTLOOK: State examines proposed 'gay cure' ban
June 27, 2012
By Nicole C. Brambila
It won’t be long now. Or at least that’s the sentiment I got on the phone with Sen. Ted Lieu’s staff this week.
The state Senate has already passed SB 1172, a first-of-its-kind measure that would ban mental-health providers from using the highly controversial conversion therapy on gay minors. Lieu’s bill is expected to be voted on in the full assembly as early as this week after getting the nod from the business policy panel Tuesday.
“SB 1172 will help save lives and protect children from harmful sham therapies,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said in a statement.
Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t signaled publically whether he will sign the legislation, but advocates are fairly confident the LGBT-friendly governor will, possibly as soon as August.
The bill is hardly a death knell to the religious homophobia that strenuously defends its efforts to “pray away the gay” through conversion or reparative therapies, which came to prominence in the ’70s with the emergence of Exodus International and the ex-gay movement. But there are signs of cracking. The list of prominent defectors is growing.
Robert Spitzer – the famed psychologist that both backed the “gay cure” and, ironically, pressed the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder from its diagnostic list – recently recanted his 2001 study, which has been much hyped by the religious community as proof gays can change their sexual orientation.
In April, Spitzer wrote, “I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy.
“I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some ‘highly motivated’ individuals.”
And just last week, David Blankenhorn, who testified in federal court in support of Proposition 8 (California’s gay marriage ban), announced he now supports same-sex marriage.
“I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but a concession nevertheless.
But here’s what I think is the most interesting thing that Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values think tank, did say: “… if fighting gay marriage was going to help marriage over all, I think we’d have seen some signs of it by now.”
The supporters of SB 1172 see the proposed California ban as a step in protecting impressionable youth from a largely debunked therapy. Most mental health professionals believe reparative therapy does not produce enduring change and instead often leads to hopelessness, guilt and shame, self hatred and suicide.
Sadly, the bill is not very likely to do much to sway deep-seeded religious beliefs against gays and lesbians, but no piece of legislation can do that anyway.