SCOTUS Approves California Ban on Conversion Therapy

By Julissa Catalan

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially upheld a California law banning psychological counseling aimed at converting LGBT minors.

The justices declined to take the case brought by supporters of “reparative therapy.” A standing appeals-court ruling from August 2013 said that the ban applied to professional practices that are within the state’s authority to regulate and doesn’t violate the free-speech rights of licensed counselors and patients seeking treatment.

Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California lawmakers provided enough evidence that showed these therapies, designed to change the sexual orientation of minors, were considered scientifically unconventional and have been rebuked by most major medical groups as unfounded and even dangerous.

“The Supreme Court has cement shut any possible opening to allow further psychological child abuse in California,” State Senator Ted Lieu, the law’s sponsor, said. “The court’s refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practice the quackery of gay conversion therapy is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles.”

According to the law, professional doctors and counselors who treat patients with the intention of eliminating same-gender attraction would be classified as unprofessional and subject to discipline by the state licensing board.

The law seems only to apply to professional therapists, and excludes mention of similar treatments by pastors through church programs.

Religious groups such as Liberty Counsel argue that lawmakers do not have substantial proof that the therapy does not work.

“I am deeply saddened for the families we represent and for the thousands of children that our professional clients counsel,” said Liberty Counsel Chairman Matthew Staver, “The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a ban on gay-conversion therapy last year, making New Jersey the second state to enforce the law protecting minors against such therapy.

Liberty Counsel is also fighting New Jersey on this ban. According to its litigation counsel, Daniel Schmid, the Supreme Court’s refusal to consider a challenge to California’s law, as opposed to issuing a ruling on the merits, has no impact on Liberty Counsel’s case in New Jersey. A hearing is scheduled in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 9.

The law was anticipated to go into effect last year in California, but multiple lawsuits seeking to overturn the law made their way up to the Supreme Court and delayed the process.

California now has clearance to start enforcing the law after the 9th Circuit lifts an injunction it put into place during the litigation. According to Christopher Stoll, Senior Staff Attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, this is expected to happen within days.

An additional eight states, as well as Washington, D.C., have pending legislation similar to the California and New Jersey laws.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in five other states have refused to pass these types of bans.

Just this month, the Texas Republican Party publicly endorsed conversion therapy, adopting the following language as part of its official platform: “We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”

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