S A C R A M E N T O , CALFORNIA – On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-California) signed legislation that prohibits LGBT minors from being subjected to “conversion” or “reparative” therapies that are aimed at altering their sexual orientation or gender identities. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S., and takes effect January 1, 2013.
“This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” Brown said. “These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
“Conversion” or “reparative” therapies include such varied techniques as talk therapy administered by mental health professionals to electroshock treatments, and questionable practices like exorcism, which are employed to “cure” individuals of their LGBT orientations and identities. But in recent years, numerous experts have disclaimed such techniques, including those who once supported them.
In 2001, Dr. Robert Spitzer— considered to be one of the most influential psychiatrists of the 20th Century—authored a controversial study in which he argued that highly-motivated individuals could successfully change their sexual orientation. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) disavowed the conclusions.
In April, Spitzer admitted that his conclusions were wrong. “In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” he said. “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.” (Spitzer says he spoke with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior about writing a retraction, but the editor declined.)