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Advocates widen fight vs. conversion therapy

– Gay rights advocates are making plans to get other states to join California in banning psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight, even as opponents prepared Monday to sue to overturn the first law in the nation to take aim at the practice.

After months of intense lobbying, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill late Saturday that prohibits licensed mental health professionals from using so-called reparative or conversion therapies with clients under age 18. Brown called the therapies “quackery” that “have no basis in science or medicine.”

Two New Jersey lawmakers already are drafting similar legislation, while groups that helped get the California law passed are sharing research, witnesses and talking points with counterparts in other gay-friendly states, said Geoff Kors, senior legislative and policy strategist for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“We’ll be reaching out to all the state (gay rights) groups, especially in states that have had success passing LGBT rights legislation,” Kors said.

The law applies to licensed therapists, not ministers or lay people who counsel teens to resist same-sex attractions.

Two Christian legal groups said they would sue in federal court in Sacramento to prevent the law from taking effect on Jan. 1. The lawsuits will be filed on behalf of therapists whose practices include efforts to help clients change their sexual orientations or reduce their attractions to people of the same-sex; parents who have sought such therapy for their children; and teenagers who currently are undergoing it, lawyers for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute and Florida-based Liberty Counsel said.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said his organization plans to argue in court that the law infringes on the First Amendment and equal protection rights of individuals to give and receive information that matches their personal and professional beliefs.

“What this law does is tell minors that they can no longer receive information about same-sex attractions that they have been receiving and that they find beneficial to them,” Staver said.

Mainstream associations representing psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers have dismissed reparative therapy in recent decades as being ineffective and potentially dangerous to the mental health of teenagers and young adults who are led to believe their interest in same-sex partners is wrong.

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