The California State Senate approved a bill that would make California the first state in the nation to ban the use of conversion therapy, a type of psychotherapy aimed at turning LGBT people straight, among minors.
The bill, SB1172, passed with a 23-13 vote on Wednesday, and will now go on to the Assembly.
"The entire medical community is opposed to these phony therapies," said Senator Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance) at the hearing. “These non-scientific efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish. It's not just that people are wasting their time and money on these therapies that don't work, it's that these therapies are dangerous."
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Claudia Miles, a psychotherapist in private practice in Marin County, agreed.
"It is extremely harmful to convince a child or teen that there is something fundamentally wrong with him when it is recognized and acknowledged that in fact, there is not," she said. "The damage done in this equation is unimaginable."
At the hearing, Lieu also argued that the therapy was invalid because it treated homosexuality as a disorder.
“Being lesbian or gay or bisexual is not a disease or mental disorder for the same reason that being a heterosexual is not a disease or a mental disorder,” Lieu said. “The medical community is unanimous in stating that homosexuality is not a medical condition.”
However, the ban is not without its critics.
The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) quickly came out against the bill on its website, citing it as inappropriate government intrusion.
"Bull," said licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Tara Fields in response. "There are so many laws and guidelines regarding therapy because it is such a sacred resource for humans. People who come in here sometimes have serious psychological damages and it is essential that those boundaries exist."
Fields said that, while there is little evidence supporting the success of conversion therapy, there is much evidence to support its impacts.
"There are those who have white-knuckled it and claimed that they've been converted. But research has shown profound negative psychological impacts, including anxiety and depression, as a result," she told HuffPost. "And as therapists, we don't have a right to decide what other people's values should be."