April 25, 2012
By Jacob Combs
California state Sen. Ted Lieu, working with the support of Equality California, has introduced a bill in the Calfornia legislature that would require psychotherapists to inform gay patients about the negative affects that “ex-gay therapy” could have on them both physically and mentally and require them to obtain their patients’ consent before engaging into the procedures. As ThinkProgress notes, the bill would not ban ex-gay therapies outright, but would make it illegal for such therapies to be used on anyone under the age of 18.
Not surprisingly, the bill will likely face staunch opposition on its way to becoming law. The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, an ex-gay therapy group, posted a call to action on its website urging members to oppose the bill, which it called “a direct assault on everyone’s freedom” and “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty.”
The ex-gay movement itself, however, is facing some difficult times. Earlier this month, Robert Spitzer, one of the main figures behind the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970s, told the American Prospect that he now wants to retract his controversial 2001 study that “highly motivated” gays and lesbians could change their sexual orientation. “The findings,” Spitzer said, “can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.” The Spitzer study was one of the cornerstones of the ex-gay movement’s attempts at legitimizing its methods; without it, there is very little ground for its advocates to stand on.
Sen. Lieu’s bill would recognize ex-gay therapy for what it really is–a dangerous and un-substantiated psychological technique that has little grounding in scientific fact. If a patient wants to explore ‘conversion therapy,’ he or she should know the risks. Even more importantly, such a decision should be based on an individual’s free will, and no child or teenager under 18 should be forced by parents into undergoing the procedure. California Senate Bill 1172 will be one to watch as it moves through the legislature, and if it passes, it could provide a foundation for providing similar protections in other states.
UPDATE: ThinkProgress reports that the bill passed out of a Senate committee today.