California Moves Toward Banning Sales of Harmful “Conversion Therapy”

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photo: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The state of California is on its way to banning harmful “conversion therapy” practices that aim to change the sexuality of LGBT people, as being fraudulent business practices. The California State Assembly passed the bill on April 19. It is expected to be heard and voted on by the California State Senate in the near future. If these efforts are successful, California will be following directly in the steps of the UK, who recently moved to ban controversial gay conversion therapy as part of its 32-page “LGBT Action Plan.”

The sponsor of the bill, Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low, head of the LGBT caucus, stated that conversion therapy does not work, and people who advertise or sell the misleading and fraudulent therapy should face a legal consequence. The bill would not affect sales of conversion therapy books or discussing conversion therapy, but specifically takes aim at the commercial sales of conversion therapy services, which have been proven to be harmful to members of the LGBTQ community — especially minors, who are often forced into treatment by their families.

“Conversion therapy” encompasses a range of “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) that have been largely proven to be ineffective. Some of these practices are downright barbaric, including shock treatments, aversive behavior conditioning such as inducing vomiting while being shown homosexual images, and other painful techniques. Critics of SOCE, including the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Psychiatric Association, note that not only do the practices have no proof of efficacy, but they may actively increase the social and familial ostracization of LGBT people, which has been definitively proven to significantly increase drug use, depression, risky sexual behaviors, and suicide.

The bill has been criticized by religious groups as “banning the Bible” and limiting their freedom of religion. Republican Assemblymember Matthew Harper holds that the bill would be found unconstitutional under the first amendment, despite precedent — California already banned mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors in 2012, a law that has been successfully defended in federal court. “You can still try to pray the gay away if you’d like, but it hasn’t proved to be effective,” said Democratic Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman. “To advertise that you can change someone’s orientation is simply that — fraudulent.” Pastors and other religious figures would not be barred from the practice, only from charging for it.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy sums it up thus: “The association does not consider homosexuality a disorder that requires treatment, and as such, we see no basis for [reparative therapy]. AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available.” One can only hope that the California State Senate aligns with these medical truths and supports the LGBT community by banning commercial sales of these harmful services.


“#BornPerfect: The Facts About Conversion Therapy.” National Center for Lesbian Rights, 6 Dec. 2016,

“AAMFT Social Policies.” AAMFT,

“Conversion Therapy.” AACAP,

Gstalter, Morgan. “California Bill Would Classify Gay Conversion Therapy as a Fraudulent Practice.” TheHill, The Hill, 23 Apr. 2018,

Human Rights Campaign. “The Lies and Dangers of ‘Conversion Therapy.’” Human Rights Campaign,

“Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association,

Riley, John. “Opponents of California Conversion Therapy Bill Claim It Would Ban the Bible.” Metro Weekly, 30 Apr. 2018,

Sopelsa, Brooke. “U.K. Government Vows to End ‘Abhorrent Practice’ of Gay Conversion Therapy.”, NBCUniversal News Group,

“WPA Position Statement on Gender Identity and Same-Sex Orientation, Attraction, and Behaviours.” World Psychiatric Association,

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