SACRAMENTO—Assembly Bill 2943 by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, to declare conversion therapy a fraudulent practice in the state of California, passed the Assembly today by a bipartisan vote of 50-18.
Although conversion therapy with minors is illegal in the state, there are no such protections for adults. In 2009, an American Psychological Association task force issued a report declaring the practice “poses critical health risks” and contributes to anti-LGBT stigma.
“The pain and fear suffered by those who have been subjected to conversion therapy is something that I can personally identify with,” said Assemblymember Evan Low. “This legislation finally creates accountability for those who claim to provide therapy but are in fact peddling an unfounded and destructive practice.”
Conversion therapy aims to change a patient’s sexual orientation through counseling, hypnosis, or in some rare cases, electric shock treatment. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Medical Association all oppose the practice on the basis that it is not evidence-based and potentially harmful to the patient’s mental health. The practice also contributes to social stigma by characterizing homosexuality as a mental illness, a view that has been discredited for decades.
The American Psychological Association advises mental health professionals to avoid telling patients that they can change their sexual orientation due to a lack of evidence that such a change is possible and the potential for harm to the patient’s mental health.
“So-called conversion therapy is a dangerous, ineffective solution in search of a nonexistent problem, and there’s no place for it in the State of California,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “Once again, California legislators sent a clear, bipartisan message to the LGBTQ community across our state and around the world: ‘You belong.’ We look forward to the day when all LGBTQ Californians are protected from these dangerous, fraudulent practices.”
In 2012, Senate Bill 1172 by then Senator Ted Lieu was signed into law to prohibit licensed mental health providers from performing sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age. Violating this law subjects the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity.
AB 2943 would declare conversion therapy a fraudulent practice under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Doing so would extend certain consumer protections to individuals harmed by sexual orientation change efforts. The bill is co-authored by all members of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus and supported by Equality California, the Human Rights Campaign, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Sacramento LGBT Center, the Trevor Project, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
AB 2943 now heads to the Senate.