California Bans Gay “Cure” Therapies


By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly

It’s official: California lawmakers have passed legislation that will ban–for use on minors–therapies aimed at “curing” homosexuality, an important legal┬áprecedent that will undoubtedly improve the emotional well-being of queer youth.

The law goes into effect January 1–and it declares “no mental health provider shall provide minors with therapy intended to change their sexual orientation, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

California governor Jerry Brown, who should win some sort of award for best commentary of the year, had this to say: “This bill bans nonscientific ‘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.”

The law is supported by a long list of medical and psychological groups, as well as gay advocates all across the country. Former patients weighed in, too–many of them described in great detail the damage caused by being forced into “cure the gay” treatments by their parents. “Reparative” therapy claims homosexual desires are tied to emotional wounds during childhood–and sometimes abuse.

But that “quackery,” as the governor puts it, has been roundly discredited by scientists and virtually all medical and mental health professionals.

Opponents of the law–some therapists and religious leaders–say it’s a violation of free choice. They also say it will cause harm to those young people who want to fight homosexual attractions. Those who advocate for reparative therapy claim the new law is based purely on politics–and they’ve said they’ll consider challenging it in court.

But, if history and consensus are any indication, they might need more than a little luck to muster any credible challenge.