California Law Calls Homosexuals "Deviant," Perhaps Not for Long

(CBS Graphic)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS/AP) An archaic California law that classifies homosexuality as "deviant behavior," purportedly to further research to facilitate the identification of sex offenders, is one step closer to being repealed thanks to a vote Tuesday.

The law was written in 1950 as a response to public outcry after a series of sex crimes in Los Angeles, which included the rape and murder of a 6-year-old girl. The murderer, who openly confessed his crime, was not gay. The law classifies homosexuals as "sexual deviants" and required the state Department of Mental Health to conduct research on "deviations conducive to sex crimes against children."

Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who sponsored the bill which would overturn the 1950 law, said "there [is] no legal justification to say that gay people needed to be understood and cured in the exact same way as sexual predators," and that to leave it there would be wrong.

The vote to move the bill forward was unanimous, with one Democrat and two Republicans abstaining from voting. Those legislators withheld support Tuesday saying they preferred to strip the language about homosexual behavior from the law and leave in the provisions requiring the state to conduct research into the causes of sex crimes.

A group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, also known as PFOX, sent a letter to Lowenthal stating that research into the causes of homosexuality is a legitimate form of science that benefits both ex-gay and gay communities.

"Being able to research the cure for those types of emotions is the way we have hope," said Jeralee Smith, the PFOX California Educational Director, in a phone interview.

Mario Guerrero, a director of Equality California, a gay-rights group, says his organization supports child safety and credible research but not research that equates being gay with being a sexual deviant.

"This code simply mischaracterizes and institutes bigotry against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community," Guerrero said.