Governor Jerry Brown has finally signed a bill into law that makes California the first state in the US to ban ‘therapy’ aimed at changing the sexuality of gay minors.

The law makes “reparative” or “conversion therapy” by psychiatrists, psychologists or churches, described by activists as child abuse, illegal when it comes to lesbians and gays under the age of 18.

The bill was overwhelmingly passed by the state assembly last month but required Brown’s signature for it to become law. This past week, nearly 50,000 people signed a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) petition urging the governor to sign the bill.

Following his approval of the law on Sunday, Brown said in a statement that ex-gay therapies “have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery”.

HRC President Chad Griffin said that the organisation was “grateful to Governor Brown for standing with California’s children”.

“LGBT youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being,” said Griffin, calling “on all states to take California’s lead on this issue”.

Efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression have been widely discredited, and have also been proven harmful to children and adults. Major medical and mental health organisations have denounced the practice, including the World Health Organisation.

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