NASHVILLE (BP) -- California's governor has signed a controversial bill banning therapy for gay teens who want to change their sexuality, a move that already has drawn promises of lawsuits from two groups who say the new law violates religious liberty.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, announced Sunday (Sept. 30) on his website he had signed the bill.

Championed by gay rights groups and gay legislators, the law asserts that "being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming" and that "sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people."

"Under no circumstances shall a mental health provider engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age," the law states.

Any mental health providers who attempt such counseling could lose their license, the law states.

Brown was quoted by CNN as saying such therapy "will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."

Pacific Justice Institute and Liberty Counsel say they will file suit seeking to overturn the law, which is set to go into effect Jan. 1.

Pacific Justice Institute says the law violates the First Amendment, privacy and parental rights.

"Of all the freedom-killing bills we have seen in our legislature the last several years, this is among the worst," Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said in a statement. "This outrageous bill makes no exceptions for young victims of sexual abuse who are plagued with unwanted same-sex attraction, nor does it respect the consciences of mental health professionals who work in a church. We are filing suit to defend families, children, and religious freedom. This unprecedented bill is outrageously unconstitutional."

Liberty Counsel said it will file suit on behalf of counselors, parents and their minor children, and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

"The California governor and legislature are putting their own preconceived notions and political ideology ahead of children and their rights to get access to counseling that meets their needs," said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder. "A number of minors who have struggled with same-sex attraction have been able to reduce or eliminate the stress and conflicts in their lives by receiving counseling of their choice which best meets their needs and religious convictions. This bill will harm children, stress families, and place counselors in a catch-22, because they will be forced to violate their licensing ethical codes."

Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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