California bans sexual orientation change efforts

At age 5, Kirk Murphy was enrolled in experimental therapy at UCLA. Inside the testing room, toys were laid out for him—dolls and a crib set on one side, guns and soldiers on the other. Playing with girl toys deserved punishment; playing with action figures warranted praise. The effects of this therapy followed him throughout his life. At 38, he killed himself.

The events of Murphy’s life, documented in a series that premiered on CNN, inspired Sen. Ted W. Lieu to pursue a bill that would protect young homosexuals from undergoing therapy that seeks to change their sexual orientation.

"I concluded that reparative therapy was evil," Lieu said in a phone interview with The Corsair.

Signed into effect by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 29, Senate Bill 1172 will ban licensed health professionals from practicing "sexual orientation change efforts" on youths under 18.

"The outcomes are potentials for suicide," said Dr. Mona Navarro, a psychology professor at SMC, who also owns a private practice in Westwood. "It becomes a situation where they have to choose between their family and their identity."

Navarro discussed the illegitimacy of these therapies, and their lack of medical proof.

"It’s not a true, research-based protocol," said Navarro.

In 2009, the American Psychology Association published research on sexual orientation change efforts, ultimately concluding that they "are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm."

Similar risks outlined in the bill itself include lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender adolescents being more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide if rejected by family.

Brian Laffan, president of Gender Sexuality Alliance, said that the bill is a "step in the right direction" for California legislation, adding that LGBT children are often brushed aside.

"There’s a blind side to kids in the LGBT community," Laffan said. "It gives kids the spotlight."

However, there are some loopholes to the bill.

"I do think people are going to get around it," said Navarro. "You can have the Christian pastor at church do conversion therapy. People can call it a different thing."

According to Lieu, the bill "does not apply to religious institutions."

He said that a priest does not have the same doctor-patient relationship with members of his congregation, so the responsibility is different.

"The other reason for the law is to tell parents that it doesn’t work for your kids," Lieu said. "My hope is that most people will follow the law."