SACRAMENTO, August 30, 2012, ( – A first-of-its-kind state measure banning voluntary therapy for same-sex attraction for minors has passed California’s Assembly, moving it a step closer to law, pending the reconciliation of the bill’s versions this week.

The latest version of the bill states that California has a compelling interest in protecting minors against “exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts,” and prohibits any mental health professional from providing sexual orientation therapy to individuals under 18 years old. 

The measure passed by a 51-21 vote in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, and was approved by the Senate in May.


Critics have blasted the bill as an infringement upon parents’ rights, while supporters say that’s precisely the point.

The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill, because we don’t want to let parents harm their children,” the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Ted Lieu, said this summer. “We have these laws to stop parents from hurting their kids. Preventive therapy hurts children, so this bill allows us to stop parents from hurting their children.”

Family rights activists say that the bill’s therapy crackdown neglects one of society’s most victimized members: children traumatized by sexual molestation.

“It is absolutely wrong to withhold emotional, mental, and physical help from a child who has been raped or molested, who, as a result of this physical, mental, and emotional exploitation, is confused about his or her sexual identity,” said President Randy Thomasson in statements following the Assembly’s vote. “The professional counseling that an abused child receives is often the key to the child’s recovery and overall mental health.”

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Conservative legislators such as Republican Assemblyman Donald Wagner object that the government had no right to interfere in “matters of medical decisions made between parents and children.” 

“That’s why parents have children—to hand down their legacies, their belief systems, the way they want their children raised,” Republican Representative Shannon Grove said during floor debate, according to Reuters.

The bill originally dictated that any speech by therapists favoring sexual change therapy, or indicating it could possibly work, constituted “therapeutic deception” and could be brought to court by “a patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling” with an eight-year statute of limitations for patients and five years for other relatives.

The latest version of the bill was simplified to state only that the therapy is harmful, that homosexuality is not a disorder, and that all such therapy for children and teenagers is illegal regardless of consent.

The two chambers must pass a final bill reconciling their two versions by Friday before sending the bill to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

Brown, a regular backer of gay rights initiatives such as redefining marriage, has yet to confirm he will sign the bill.