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California nears ban on 'conversion' therapy for gay youths

The California Assembly and Senate have passed a ban on 'conversion' therapy for minors, calling the practice unscientific and dangerous. The bill could soon land on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

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California is poised to become the first state in the country to ban “conversion” or “reparative” therapy for minor – treatments that claim to stop a young person from being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or to reverse such tendencies.

Proponents of the law say top mental-health organizations agree that such practices are not only misguided but also dangerous, potentially leading to anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness, and even suicide. Opponents say there is more than 100 years of professional and scientific literature on the subject of sexual-orientation change, offering a strong case that, for at least some people, sexual orientation can be modified.

Legal challenges could follow, though scholars suggest that the measure appears to be a straightforward attempt to protect public safety on a matter generally governed by state law. If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) – who has not taken any public stance on the issue – it could be followed by similar laws in blue states nationwide. 

Known as Senate Bill 1172, the bill passed the California Assembly Tuesday, 52 to 21, and now returns to the Senate, where it previously passed, 23 to 13, for a concurrence vote on amendments. Then, it would go to Governor Brown’s desk.

Gay-rights groups have been quick to applaud the bills author, Sen. Ted Lieu (D).

“These dangerous, unscientific practices have caused too many young people to take their own lives or suffer lifelong harm after being told, falsely, that who they are – and who they love – is wrong, sick, or the result of personal or moral failure,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president.

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