California’s Ex-Gay Therapy Ban Is Already Under Threat

California Governor Jerry Brown last week signed a bill to ban clinicians administering ex-gay therapy to minors, making California the first state in the country to take such a proactive stance against this dangerous practice. Now, before the ink has even had time to dry, the bill is already under threat from a conservative religious legal group.

Governor Jerry Brown Signs the Ex-Gay Therapy Ban

“This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” Brown is quoted as saying in a statement to The Chronicle that was issued late last week when he signed the bill into law. The bill will go into effect January 1.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), makes it against the law for a registered clinician to prescribe unproven therapies designed to change the sexuality or potential sexuality of any minor.

The bill was heavily watered down in the state Assembly. This means the law, despite being groundbreaking and vitally important, is powerless to stop religious groups using “spiritual” reparative therapy.

The legislation also leaves the punishment for contravening this law up to the oversight of the medical community, and thus relies on officials being prepared to take action on the issue. We know that the mainstream medical community opposes reparative therapy, but it remains to be seen just how far individual medical authorities will go in reprimanding those who contravene the law.

The Liberty Counsel Goes to Court Over California’s Ex-Gay Therapy Ban

California is now facing a lawsuit over the ex-gay therapy ban by the anti-gay self-proclaiming “Christian legal group” the Liberty Counsel.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement:

The California governor and legislature are putting their own preconceived notions and political ideology ahead of children and their rights to get access to counseling that meets their needs. A number of minors who have struggled with same-sex attraction have been able to reduce or eliminate the stress and conflicts in their lives by receiving counseling of their choice which best meets their needs and religious convictions. This bill will harm children, stress families, and place counselors in a catch-22, because they will be forced to violate their licensing ethical codes …

We are filing on behalf of mental health professionals who find themselves in a catch-22. … This bill and the ethical codes of all of the licensing boards in California are on an inevitable collision course. The licenses of countless mental health professionals hang in the balance. … This law undermines parental rights. Mental health decisions should be left to the patient, the parents, and the counselors – not to the government to license one viewpoint.

However, while invoking the “religious right to freedom of conscience” has proven a viable angle in other areas, the court case may work against the Liberty Counsel.

In order to prove the bill harms “children, stress families, and place counselors in a catch-22,” they would seem to need to provide evidence that reparative therapy actually works.

And there’s the rub. There exists no peer-reviewed independent literature supporting that a permanent and significant “reorientation” is possible or even desirable when weighed against the potential harms which include provoking depression and even suicidal thoughts.

Highlighting in a court setting that anti-gay groups’ lack of evidence for their assertions proved advantageous in the Proposition 8 case, as it might here.

The Ex-Gay Therapy Ban: An Important, Imperfect Step

The importance of this legislation as a first step, despite the above concerns and issues, cannot be overstated.

LGBT rights groups have praised California’s actions, with the Human Rights Campaign saying in a statement:

We’re grateful to Governor Brown for standing with California’s children. LGBT youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being. We commend Governor Brown for putting children first, and call on all states to take California’s lead on this issue. We will continue our fight against this kind of child abuse, which has been deemed harmful to children by all major mental health, medical, and child welfare organizations.

New Jersey is among a handful of states now flirting with adopting a similar ban.

Finally, thank you to Care2 readers who signed this petition urging Governor Brown to pass the ex-gay therapy ban! You’ve helped California take this small but important step.


Related Reading:

5 Reasons to Support a Ban on Ex-Gay Therapy

CA Assembly Passes Ban on Ex-Gay Therapy on Minors

Ex-Gay Group Giving Up on Gay ‘Cure’ Lie?


Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Joe Houghton.


Susan T.
Susan T4 years ago

Bravo to CA for enacting this ban; however, I believe there is currently an injunction against enforcement of the law while the challenge to it is in the court system. Does anyone know of a more recent update?

Apparently NJ is moving towards a similar ban, although GOv Chrystie has hedged whether he would sign such a law or not saying he "doesn't have enough information". That's a huge political dodge - seems there is no evidence you can pray away the gay, and plenty of evidence that these "therapies" are harmful.

The scary thing is that if this case goes all the way to the Supreme Court, given the current corporations have more rights than people make up of the SCOTUS, the Liberty Counsel could win. Because of course according to SCOTUS the money making corporations churning out this garbage therapy have more rights to exploit people for a profit than people do to being protected from scams and sham "therapy".

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

Thank you!

Allan Yorkowitz
.5 years ago

Thank goodness Brown saw reason on this issue.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago


Maryann Burkholtz

to Carla v.--Mitt Romney proves your point he was a big bully as a youth and is trying to bully us right now.

Maryann Burkholtz

If any youth that has been counseled by this grou and commits suicide, the group should be arrested and charged with murder . They should have to pay some sort of penalty for the lose of a child's life. They are the least zChristian group I ever heard of, and I knoe they will rot in hell, but I'd like to see themrot here fiirst for hurting kids.

Jane H.
Jane H5 years ago

This is just the first step in a long line of improvements to society. Thank you Care2 and Gov. Brown!

Cheryl I.
Past Member 5 years ago


Mitchell D.
Mitchell D5 years ago

Mat Staver is vice-president of Liberty university, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell, and whose Law School teaches, among other nonsense, that the Founding Fathers had no intention of separating church and state.
I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall that Michelle Bachman, known for her acute thinking capabilities, went to law school there.
ANYTHING this guy says needs to be taken with about a pound of salt!! You have to consider from whence it comes.

Mitchell D.
Mitchell D5 years ago

I am a licensed clinician, not in California, however, and would not, and have not in my 45 years in the field, consider using a therapeutic approach that is not backed by empirical research! Not only is this typeof therapy not backed by empirical research, but the research that has been done, to my knowledge, has found that it is useless.
Homosexuality is not a choice, it is simply the way 10% of the human race (God created, if you must) is wired. By the way, homosexuality has been noted in other mammalian species, and beyond.
Anyone, Bachman's husband, or anyone else, who does any sort of "ex-gay" therapy ought to have his/her license to practice removed.