Law on sex orientation therapy for youths heads to court

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In friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the plaintiffs, groups told the appellate court that homosexuality is not inborn, is potentially changeable, and that people with same-sex attractions have benefited from sexual-orientation change efforts.

In cases where youths develop homosexual attractions because of negative or traumatic experiences, they “need therapy for the trauma, not affirmation of a ‘gay identity,’” said the American College of Pediatricians. People can, and do, make “the personal decision to leave homosexuality,” said Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.

Official attacks

But many professional, medical, mental health and child welfare groups filed briefs in support of the law.

“According to the American Psychological Association and other leading mental-health organizations, attempts to change sexual orientation may increase distress, depression and suicidal tendencies dangers that victims of sexual abuse are particularly ill-equipped to handle,” wrote Dr. Tonya Chaffee and six other doctors.

Officials for the city and county of San Francisco said they witness “the harms caused by sexual-orientation change efforts,” and a Colorado man, Ryan Kendall, said in a brief with other “survivors,” that the therapy “tore apart his family” and led to a 15-year estrangement from his family.

On April 5, California state Sen. Ted W. Lieu, author of SB 1172, told Harvard Law School students that the law is constitutional.

“If plaintiffs’ arguments were correct, then government could never regulate the medical profession because virtually all doctors engage in some sort of speech,” said Mr. Lieu, who has a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

That is why the U.S. Supreme Court said in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that when speech is “part of the practice of medicine, [it is] subject to reasonable licensing and regulation by the state,” Mr. Lieu said at the eighth annual Harvard Lambda Legal Advocacy Conference.

It is “unconscionable,” he said, that states permit children to receive “dangerous quackery” when such therapies do not treat an actual disease or health problem but can cause children to experience depression, guilt or self-hatred, or even commit suicide.

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, lawmakers are taking steps to pass a ban on sexual-orientation change efforts. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, made headlines in March when an aide said he did not support conversion therapies. Mr. Christie, however, has not said what he would do with a bill banning such therapies.

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