California Takes Big Step in Becoming First to Outlaw 'Reparative' Therapy

Speaker John A. Pérez, the first out gay person elected to lead a state House in American history, speaks in support of the bill.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

August 29 2012 11:24 AM ET

Speaker John A. Pérez spoke out in support of SB 1172, which passed the Assembly yesterday.

The California State Assembly approved Senate Bill 1172, The Conversion Therapy Ban, which would make it the first state in the nation to outlaw the practice of “conversion” or “reparative” therapy for young LGBT Californians if signed by the governor. The unprecedented bill has been heralded by nearly every national LGBT organization.

This bill prohibits state-licensed mental health practitioners from engaging in abusive treatments that fraudulently claim to stop a young person from being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Some of the techniques used by these practitioners include the shame, verbal abuse, pornography, and even aversion training. These practices are not only ineffective but extremely dangerous and can lead to anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness, and even suicide. They have no scientific basis and have been rejected as ineffective and potentially harmful by medical, mental health, and child welfare organizations.

“These dangerous, unscientific practices have caused too many young people to take their own lives or suffer lifelong harm after being told, falsely, that who they are and who they love is wrong, sick, or the result of personal or moral failure,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president. “We applaud the legislature, and in particular, Sen. Ted Lieu, for putting a stop to the psychological abuse these misguided practitioners have inflicted on vulnerable youth and families.”

Said Ben Caldwell, chair of the legislative and advocacy committee for the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: “California’s lawmakers should be praised for moving to protect children from the serious and lasting harm that comes from this illegitimate and unsupported ‘therapy.’  Senator Lieu and his staff have worked tirelessly for months with major professional associations to ensure that this bill would protect children from the damage that can result from so-called reparative therapy while ensuring that it would not interfere with appropriate, legitimate therapies that provide understanding and support to LGBT youth.  As a result of this process, numerous mental health organizations and associations have lined up to proudly support SB1172.”

Added National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Kate Kendell: “The time is long overdue for the legislature to take action to stop the severe harms being inflicted on young people and their families by these dangerous practices. These practices have been thoroughly discredited, and yet every day in California state-licensed therapists abuse their professional authority to deceive parents and wreck the lives of youth who deserve nothing but protection and support. This bill will literally save lives. California youth deserve protection from this terrible abuse.” 

Speaker John A. Pérez, the first out gay person elected to lead a state House in American history made impassioned remarks on the floor in support of the legislation: "This, in my opinion, is an abusive practice in the guise of therapy." Pérez went on to share about the experiences of the LGBT community and the difficulty of personal journeys to acceptance. Speaker Pérez ended his floor presentation in favor of the bill by saying, "It helps protect children from activities, as well-meaning as they may be, that subject them to incredible challenges to their humanity and put their lives at risk." 

Watch his full speech in this video.

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