California looks to ban 'pray the gay away' therapy

A new bill wants to ban 'conversion therapy'

You can’t ‘pray the gay away’

Peter DaSilva/The New York Times

California is in the gay rights spotlight once again, with a first-of-its kind ban on “conversion therapy” for gay youth. The bill, which is before final committee, is necessary, says its sponsor, Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu, because the therapy—popular with religious organizations like Exodus International and Manifested Glory Ministries—can lead to depression, guilt, even suicide. “Pray the gay away,” counselling and exorcisms are among therapy’s techniques. It has been denounced by the American Psychiatric Association. Some parents who enroll their kids in conversion therapy are “well meaning,” says Rebekah Orr, of Equality California, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, “but don’t know how psychologically damaging it is.”

Those in the so-called “ex-gay movement,” however, contend that gay people can purge themselves of their homosexuality. If passed, the bill would also force adults seeking conversion therapy to sign a release form confirming that they understand the potential psychological risks involved. “With conversion therapy, there are no happy endings,” says Wayne Besin, executive director of the U.S. gay rights group Truth Wins Out. “It’s an experiment that failed and left a trail of victims.”