California steps up fight against ‘conversion therapy’

SACRAMENTO — California is stepping up its efforts to fight “conversion therapy,” Courthouse News reported last week.

From Courthouse News:

The state Senate on Thursday cleared a proposal to list so-called conversion therapy as a fraudulent business practice, bringing it under the umbrella of state consumer-protection laws and opening the door for victims to sue practitioners.

California outlawed conversion or reparative therapy for minors in 2012 but there is still a fringe market for adults. The current measure, Assembly Bill 2943 by Assemblyman Evan Low, makes it illegal to advertise practices claiming to “change an individual’s sexual orientation.”

Low, D-Cupertino, hopes the threat of a fine or lawsuit will encourage clinicians to forgo the controversial practice which has been discredited worldwide by medical and mental health organizations.

“We as legislators have a responsibility to protect Californians from harmful and deceptive practices,” Low said after the floor vote. “I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for affirming their support for those in the LGBT community who need it most by voting for this bill.”

The Senate passed the bill on a party-line vote, without a Republican vote. The measure heads back to the Assembly for a vote on procedural amendments and then to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for final approval. The Assembly approved AB 2943 by a 50-18 margin in April.

Far-right Christian groups have said the bill is an attempt to “legislate sexual behavior” and intrudes on religious freedom. An attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute said the bill would likely get overturned in court, noting a Supreme Court decision about the California’s requirement for health care providers to give women information about family planning and abortion.

“The Legislature has chosen to plow ahead and therefore we think it’s likely that this legislation will suffer a similar fate in the courts,” Institute staff attorney Matthew McReynolds told Courthouse News.

The bill’s supporters say that “conversion therapy” is dangerous and can cause permanent damage. Most medical associations, including the American Psychological Association, oppose “conversion therapy.”

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