California Bans Controversial “Ex-Gay” Therapy for Minors

So-called conversion therapy will be illegal for minors in California starting Jan. 1. The practice tries to change sexual orientation from gay to straight.

California has become the first state in the nation to ban so-called “reparative” or conversion therapy aimed at changing a minor’s sexual orientation.

Under the terms of a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday, therapists who use such techniques on children and teens will face disciplinary action from the agencies that license them.

The therapies are based on the idea that sexual orientation can be changed, and that feelings of attraction for someone of the same sex is the result of childhood trauma. They use a variety of techniques, including aversion training, persuasion and pornography to convince gay teens and others that they can become straight.

These methods and the ideas behind them are far from the mainstream of thought among doctors and therapists. Most medical opinion holds that the therapies are ineffective at best, and psychologically devastating at worst.

But they are supported by some in the religious right and other communities.

"I will admit there’s quackery out there," said David Pickup, a marriage and family counselor who lobbied against the new law. "But reparative therapy, which is I what I do, authentic reparative therapy is absolutely based on science, good research and it works.

Pickup, who practices in Glendale, said the new law would limit therapists' abilities to treat children who have been sexually abused. He spoke to NBC4's Patrick Healy about the bill earlier this year.

But state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) called the practice “evil,” and said it has led to suicide, depression and self-loathing among people who are forced to undergo it.

“No one should stand idly by while children are being psychologically abused, and anyone who forces a child to try to change their sexual orientation must understand this is unacceptable,” said Lieu, who sponsored the bill to ban the therapy for children and teens.

Lieu has said he would ban the practice for adults as well if he could muster the political support.

Brown, in signing the bill, said the new law would assign conversion therapy to the “dustbin of quackery.”

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

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