SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California Gov. Jerry Brown made history late Saturday night by signing a landmark bill that will protect LGBT youth from psychological abuse by deceitful mental health professionals who falsely claim to be able to change their sexual orientation or gender expression.
With Gov. Brown’s signature, California becomes the first state in the nation to protect LGBT young people from these dangerous practices known as “ex-gay” therapy, conversion therapy and reparative therapy, including the use of shame, verbal abuse and aversion therapy, that place youth at high risk of depression and suicide.
"This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery," Gov. Brown said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The law, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, prohibits state-licensed therapists from engaging in these practices with minors.
Authored by state Sen. Ted Lieu, Senate Bill 1172 was co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations.
"Governor Brown today reaffirmed what medical and mental health organizations have made clear: Efforts to change minors' sexual orientation are not therapy, they are the relics of prejudice and abuse that have inflicted untold harm on young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians," said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president. "We thank Senator Ted Lieu and Governor Brown for their efforts in making California a leader in banning this deceptive and harmful practice."
Added NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell: “Governor Brown has sent a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBT youth and their families. This law will ensure that state-licensed therapists can no longer abuse their power to harm LGBT youth and propagate the dangerous and deadly lie that sexual orientation is an illness or disorder that can be ‘cured.’ ”
Ryan Kendall, a survivor of the practice who testified in the Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8, described his experience earlier this summer to the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee:
“As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called conversion therapy destroyed my life and tore apart my family. In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family. At the age of 16, I had lost everything. My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide.”
This victory would not have been possible without the dedication and collaboration of dozens of organizations and individuals, many of whom — such as survivors Kendall and Peter Drake — opened their lives and sacrificed their privacy to share the damage they suffered as a result of these abusive practices.
In addition to the SB 1172’s sponsors, the bill was supported by dozens of organizations, including a number of mental health organizations, including: The California Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (California Division), the National Association of Social Workers (CA Chapter), the California Latino Psychological Association, and the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies.
The immediate reaction from the LGBT community has been overwhelmingly positive.
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, has been fighting for LGBT equality for years and has often spoken out against “ex-gay” therapy and exposed the junk science behind it.
"This is a historic day that protects LGBT youth from child abuse disguised as genuine therapy," Besen said. "We thank Gov. Brown for signing legislation that can serve as a model for similar bills across the nation."
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, applauded the new law.
"We're grateful to Governor Brown for standing with California's children. LGBT youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being,” Griffin said. “We commend Governor Brown for putting children first, and call on all states to take California’s lead on this issue. We will continue our fight against this kind of child abuse, which has been deemed harmful to children by all major mental health, medical, and child welfare organizations."
Efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression have been debunked as junk science, and have also been proven harmful to children and adults. All major medical and mental health organizations have denounced the practice including: the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American School Counselor Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Pan American Health Organization. Learn more HERE.