Governor says treatment has led to depression, suicide.
California has become the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to "overcome" homosexuality, a step hailed by gay rights groups across the country that say the therapies have caused dangerous emotional harm to gay and lesbian teenagers.
"This bill bans nonscientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide," Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement Saturday after he signed the bill into law. "These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, states that no "mental health provider" shall provide minors with therapy intended to change their sexual orientation, including efforts to "change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex."
The law was sponsored by state Sen. Ted W. Lieu and supported by a long list of medical and psychological societies, as well by state and national advocates for gay rights. Also speaking up for the ban were former patients who described emotional scars they said they were left with after being pushed into the therapy by their parents and finding that they could not change their sexual orientation, or did not want to.
But some therapists and conservative religious leaders who promote methods that they say can reduce homosexual desire have condemned the new law as a violation of free choice. They say that it will harm young people who want to fight homosexual attractions on religious or other grounds and warn that it will lead more people to seek help from untrained amateurs.
The use of harsh aversion techniques, like electric shock or nausea-inducing drugs, to combat homosexual desires has largely disappeared. But during the last 30 years, some psychologists have refined a theory of "reparative therapy," which ties homosexual desires to emotional wounds in early childhood.
NEW YORK TIMES