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Therapy lawsuits

Three more lawsuits revolve around whether homosexuality is innate and unchangeable.

In California, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is slated to hear arguments the week of April 15 in two lawsuits against SB 1172, a California law that forbids teens and children from receiving sexual-orientation change efforts. The law is not being implemented as the legal challenge plays out.

The law was enacted out of concern that gay children and teens are harmed by efforts to change their “normal” and “natural” same-sex attractions, according to legal briefs, including one filed by four gay men who “survived” sexual-orientation change efforts and the sister of a gay man who committed suicide when the efforts didn’t work for him.

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is defending the law, and 10 professional, medical, mental health and child-welfare groups recently filed a brief in support of it.

These 10 briefs “underscore the unified message” that “efforts to change a child’s sexual orientation are cruel, damaging and have no place in the provision of mental health care,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a co-sponsor of the law.

Supporters of sexual-orientation change efforts, who like many gay marriage opponents say same-sex attractions are not permanent or inborn, argue that youths who want to escape such attractions should be able to receive counseling to support that goal, and SB 1172 illegally interferes in that free and protected speech. Therapist David Pickup, who benefited from sexual-orientation change therapy, is one of the supporters in the lawsuit filed by Liberty Counsel. Therapists Donald Welch and Anthony Duk, and counselor-in-training Aaron Bitzer are plaintiffs in a second lawsuit against the law, this one filed by the Pacific Justice Institute.

In New Jersey Superior Court in Hudson County, the Southern Poverty Law Center is seeking damages and the license revocation of Jonah, an organization formerly known as Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing.

In Ferguson v. Jonah, four gay men and their family members say they suffered consumer fraud when Jonah’s paid counselors failed to help the men change their sexual orientations. The “therapy” caused deep psychological scars, said plaintiff Sheldon Bruck, who talked with a Jonah-recommended therapist for several weeks when he was 17.

Charles LiMandri, president of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, is representing Jonah and its officials, Arthur Goldberg and Alan Downing. If legal principle establishes that homosexuality is fixed and immutable, “the adverse consequences for religious liberty, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech will be simply staggering,” he said Friday. “We’re in the thick of it.”