A California Senate committee today advanced SB 1172, a bill that would help protect citizens from harmful, ineffective ex-gay therapy. The law does not outright ban all ex-gay therapy, but it does prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from undergoing sexual orientation change efforts. It also requires that any prospective patient sign an informed consent form that includes the following disclaimer:
Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.
Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
This is model legislation that applies scientific knowledge to the benefit of the general welfare. Ex-gay therapy has been debunked repeatedly and deserves the marginalization that this bill would implement.
Of course, groups that promote ex-gay therapy insist that the evidence supports their traumatic practices, but it’s an empty claim. One of the witnesses at today’s hearing speaking on behalf of NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) cited two studies that have been debunked and disavowed. The intention behind the therapy, as essentially admitted in NARTH’s alert email today, is to simply reinforce religious bias against homosexuality. (The same email also mistakenly described the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ted Lieu (D), as openly gay, in an apparent attempt to further bias the group’s followers.) SB 1172 is an important step forward to protect gay youth and limit the dangerous impact of such stigma.