California Senate to debate gay therapy bill

FRESNO, Calif.

The bill was drafted by Senator Ted Lieu out of Torrance. The Senate is expected to vote on it later this month. If it passes, it could make it illegal for licensed therapists to offer psychotherapy to gay minors aimed at making them straight.

Scotti Maldonado, 25, was just 15 when his youth pastor brought him to a therapist, hoping the visit would put a stop to his homosexual tendencies. "Making sure I understand what sexuality was and really making sure that I understood the way I felt about other men was wrong."

A decade later, Scotti is in a committed relationship with another man. He says conversion therapy is wrong and ineffective. "There are just so many lasting effects that never turn out well for anybody in this, and even to this day, they're still gay."

Russell Willingham disagrees. He is a certified clinical sexual addiction specialist at New Creation Ministries in Fresno. Willingham admits while he hasn't been able to quote "change" every client he sees, but says he has made more progress than not during his 19 years of service. "I've seen people like that experience significant change, and they didn't commit suicide or become drug addicts. In fact, those were the problems they had prior to seeing me."

Those problems are exactly what prompted California Senator Ted Lieu to author Senate Bill 1172. The bill would prohibit reparative therapy for minors and obligate adults seeking the treatment to sign a release form that states the counseling is ineffective and possibly dangerous.

Lieu says, "Not only does the medical community say there's no medical basis for this, but the research also shows that it doesn't work."

Lieu cites the year 2009 when the American Psychological Association said mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy -- an assertion which is clearly still up for debate.

If Lieu's measure passes, it would be the first of its kind in the nation. It's only geared towards licensed therapists, not clergy, so counselors and church leaders can still offer this type of therapy.

Lieu says while he's gotten a lot of support, he's received a number of hate messages as well.

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