California Bill Bars Gays from Receiving Sexual Orientation Therapy

A member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community parades through central London during the annual Pride Parade on June 29, 2013.
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty

Gays wishing to receive therapy to help them reorient or modify their sexual desires will be outlawed from doing so by a new California bill criminalizing such therapy or counseling.

With the passage of Assembly Bill 2943, “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual” will become “an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act,” so anyone desiring therapy will need to go to another state.

As the LA Times points out in a May 7 article, the new bill “would expand the definition of ‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices’ for which consumers could sue” to include anyone who engaged in that practice. The prohibition could potentially include “churches or other religious groups that sold, advertised or even recommended books that propagated the idea that believers can use prayer to overcome ‘same-sex attraction,’” the article suggests.

The proposed law further declares that homosexuality “is not a disease, disorder, or illness,” which implies that the Christian understanding of homosexual desire as “disordered” is no longer an acceptable position in California.

Curiously, the bill does not merely discourage homosexual men and women from seeking “reparative therapy” but instead will make it illegal, even for those who believe it may be helpful or desirable. Many gays do not seek conversion therapy, but some do.

“The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior,” the bill claims, since such therapy “may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

The bill seems to ignore a number of studies showing the efficacy of reparative therapy for gays wishing to modify their sexual desires.

As an example, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) conducted a survey in 1997 of 882 patients who were believed to have experienced some change in their sexual orientation. Among patients who self-identified as exclusively homosexual before treatment, post-therapy, 18 percent self-identified as exclusively heterosexual, 17 percent as almost entirely heterosexual, and 12 percent as more heterosexual than homosexual.

Moreover, contrary to the bill’s assertion that reorientation therapy is dangerous to patients’ well-being, the survey found that clients had experienced significant improvement in both self-esteem and emotional stability.

Prior to 1973, both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association considered homosexuality to be a psychological disorder but ended up “normalizing” homosexuality because of intense pressure by gay-rights activists. No new scientific finding occasioned this shift in position, which was thoroughly political rather than medical.

As Catholic League president Bill Donahue has pointed out, this bill does a disservice to gays seeking counseling, but also threatens free speech at a moment when it is already under siege from the guardians of politically correct groupthink.

When argument is insufficient to persuade, coercion is the only option.

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