- Controversial conversion therapy aims to change a subject’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to straight.
- Bill preventing minors from undergoing such therapy was passed by California’s Assembly – bringing it closer towards becoming law.
- Gay rights advocates say the ‘dehumanizing’ practice can lead to depression, substance abuse and suicide.
- Opponents of the bill say it encroaches on the rights of parents to make choices for their children.
A bill prohibiting the use of controversial therapy aimed at ‘curing’ homosexuality on gay teenagers has been approved by California’s Assembly, bringing the state a step closer to becoming the first in the U.S. to outlaw the practice.
The vote in the Democratic-controlled Assembly on Tuesday represented a major victory for gay rights advocates who insist that so-called conversion therapy has no medical basis because homosexuality is not a disorder.
Democrat Richardo Lara, one of several openly gay legislators to champion the bill during the debate, urged Assembly members to stand with ‘sissy boys’.
Conversion therapy is an attempt to change the sexual orientation of a subject from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.
Opponents of the practice say such efforts can cause depression and lead to substance abuse and suicide.
The bill to prohibit children and teenagers from undergoing such therapy was passed by a vote of 51 to 21, a Reuters report said.
‘One of our number one priorities in this house is to protect the next generation of Californians,’ Mr Lara said in a speech ahead of the vote.
‘And some of those are sissy boys. And some of those sissy boys grow up to be Assembly members. And some of those sissy boys need help. And we are here to stand with those sissy boys.’
Assembly member John Perez, the first openly gay speaker of California’s lower house, said during the debate: ‘It is inappropriate for anyone, including parents, to subject anybody to dehumanizing activity’.
The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Ted Lieu, said in a statement that the psychiatrist who pioneered the therapy, Dr Robert Spitzer, has since renounced it and has apologized to the gay and lesbian community.
The Senate passed its version of the bill by a vote of 23 to 13 in May.
Legislators will have to iron out minor differences in the two measures by Friday before a final bill goes before California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
Mr Brown has not indicated whether he supports the measure.
If the Governor does sign the bill into law, California will become the first state in the U.S. to outlaw such therapy for minors.
Republican opponents of the measure said regulation of the therapy was a matter for medical boards – not politicians – to decide. They said the bill encroaches on the rights of parents to make choices for their children.
Republican Assembly member Shannon Grove said on Tuesday: ‘That’s why parents have children – to hand down their legacies, their belief systems, the way they want their children raised.’