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Bill by Torrance lawmaker Ted Lieu banning ‘conversion’ of gay teens clears committee

Gay To Straight

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, urged lawmakers to approve his bill to ban a controversial form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay people straight during a hearing at the Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, May 8. The bill, SB 1172, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee 3-1.

The practice known as “conversion therapy” -- in which gay or bisexual people, usually teenagers, are “converted” to becoming heterosexual -- is that much closer to being banned for all minors in California thanks to a state lawmaker from Torrance.

Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu’s first-of-its-kind bill, SB 1172, was approved by the state Senate Judiciary Committee late Tuesday, paving the way for a vote before the full Senate within the month.

Lieu says he believes conversion therapy (also known as “reparative therapy”) is harmful and unscientific. Senate Bill 1172 would forbid the practice for all people under 18 and require “informed consent” for adults.

This morning Lieu was a guest on KPCC’s The Madeleine Brand Show, telling Brand that “There are patients that have committed suicide having gone through” conversion therapy.

“What we’re saying is, you can’t engage in a (medical) practice that the medical community itself has disavowed.”

In an interview with NBC yesterday, Lieu said, “I would actually ban it for everybody if I could. But we understand that adults can do risky and stupid things if they want to.”

He expanded on those comments this morning, telling Brand, “In society we let adults do all sort of stupid and risky things. But we don’t let children do that.” 

Proponents of conversion therapy -- euphemistically referred to as “pro-heterosexual counseling” and “sexual orientation change efforts” -- say it’s a valid practice with useful results. David Pickup (that’s actually his name) said he underwent the procedure and it worked, curing him of his gayness.

The proponents -- largely conservative Christian groups -- also call Lieu’s bill “speech-chilling,” and are casting the debate as state intrusion into the rights of parents to raise their kids how they want.

“Evidently the government knows how to raise your child better than you do,” Pickup told NBC.

Some people who have undergone the “therapy” say they were essentially tortured in order to purge them of their desires. The practice nonetheless has mainstream advocates and practitioners, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus.

SB 1172 is scheduled to appear before the full state Senate within two or three weeks.

Here is the full NBC report on Lieu’s bill:

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