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Is conversion therapy business fraud? California might say yes

California is one step closer to labeling conversion therapy a fraudulent business practice.

AB 2943 would label conversion therapy a false business practice under the State’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and give consumer protections to anyone harmed by attempts to change their sexual orientation.

BILL ADVANCES

The bill passed the State Senate today in a 25 to 11 vote. The bill returns to the Assembly, who must do a concurrence vote by August 31, the deadline for a bill to be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.

“The pain and fear suffered by those who have been subjected to conversion therapy is something that I can personally identify with,” Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Cupertino), who identifies as gay and authored the bill, has said. “This legislation finally creates accountability for those who claim to provide therapy, but are in fact peddling an unfounded and destructive practice.”

The bill would not impact freedom of speech, including books or religion. It applies only when money is exchanged for services or treatment, Low said.

As a result, families and religious groups and leaders would be allowed to continue using the discredited practice.

Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy for gay and lesbian teenagers became infamous after the 2007 “South Park” episode “Cartman Sucks.” In the episode, Butters Stotch’s parents think he is “bi-curious” and ship him off to a “Pray-the-gay-away camp,” where several gay teenagers have committed suicide after being told they were sexual deviants. Photo: Comedy Central.

DANGEROUS THERAPY

Numerous studies have discredited conversion therapy. For example, in 2009, after a review of 83 studies published between 1960 and 2007, an American Psychological Association task force said that conversion therapy doesn’t work and  “poses critical health risks.”

Earlier this year, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law published a study saying 77,000 LGBT youth would be harmed by conversion therapy.

Several mental health groups, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Medical Association, oppose conversion therapy. They have said it’s harmful to the a patient’s mental health and contributes to social stigma by characterizing homosexuality as a mental illness, a view that has been discredited for decades.

Gay man who survived conversion therapy tells his story in book ‘The Inheritance of Shame’

CALIFORNIA LAW

In 2012, California banned licensed mental health providers from performing conversion therapy with a patient under 18 years of age.

Low’s bill is 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.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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