California is set to ban gay ‘conversion’ therapy in a law that is being hailed as the first of its kind.
Supporters say the legislation, which went before a final committee yesterday (8 May) in the American state, is necessary because this form of psychotherapy is ineffective and harmful.
Bill author Senator Ted Lieu said: ‘This therapy can be dangerous.’
He added the treatments can ‘cause extreme depression and guilt’ that can lead to suicide.
Conservative religious groups have criticised the bill, saying it would interfere with parent’s rights to seek psychological care for their children.
In a statement made by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, they said: ‘While this is a direct assault on everyone’s freedom it is also a not so subtle attack on religious liberty.’
The California bill would ban ‘conversion’ therapy for people under the age of 18, and force adults who chose to undergo the treatment to sign a release form that states the counselling is ineffective and dangerous.
Lieu says attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation should be treated like smoking and drinking – harmful activities adults can choose to participate in, but children cannot.
In a telephone interview, he said: ‘We let adults do all sorts of stupid and risky things, but we ban dangerous things for young people.’
Earlier this month psychiatrist Bob Spitzer said he now wants to retract his 2001 study which proclaimed that ‘highly motivated’ gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation.
‘I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy,’ the 80-year-old wrote in a letter.
He said: ‘I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.’