California News

Gay conversion therapy for minors banned; Christian group to challenge

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The state finds itself in a legal battle over a new law banning a certain kind of therapy aimed at making gay and lesbian teenagers straight. This controversial bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown over the weekend.

California is the first state in the country to ban gay conversion therapy for children.

It doesn't take effect until January, but a Christian legal group has already filed a lawsuit to overturn the ban. The group says the therapy should be allowed.

Stephen Hallett went through a controversial treatment called "reparative therapy" last year in an effort to become straight. But the Bay Area man says no one should go through it because it can be dangerous.

"It causes depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide," said Hallett. "And makes you anxious and causes you to hate yourself."

Hallett was excited to hear Governor Brown signed into law Sunday a ban preventing mental health professionals from using gay conversion therapies in California on minors, methods the American Psychiatric Association concluded are harmful to patients.

In a statement, the Governor said: "These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."

"We have the science now that we didn't have before, that sexual orientation is not something that can be changed," said psychologist Debra Moore.

But the victory may be short-lived for gay rights advocates. The ink is barely dry on Governor Brown's signature, and conservative groups have already filed a lawsuit to stop the ban from taking effect January 1. They claim it's unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment.

"It absolutely clamps down on speech by the professionals involved," said Matthew McReynolds, Pacific Justice Institute. "It also affects the minors' and their parents' rights to access particular types of therapy that they may want."

The conservative legal group also argues conversion therapy does work for some people.

"When it benefits some people and may or may not benefit other people, there's no basis for the state to step in," said McReynolds.

"Going through reparative therapy was among the darkest times of my life," said Hallett. Asked if it worked, Hallett replied: "No, I am just as gay as I ever was."

States considering similar bans will be interested in seeing how this case plays out.

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