A federal appellate court Wednesday let stand a first-in-the-nation California law that prohibits licensed therapists from offering "change" therapy for children who are struggling with same-sex attractions.
A lawyer for the therapists and others suing to overturn the law, SB 1172, said they would seek review from the Supreme Court.
The majority decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals not to rehear the cases, Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, means the 2012 law, which bans "sexual-orientation change efforts" for children and teens, remains in effect.
The case is closely watched, as several states have passed or introduced similar measures.
Judge Susan Graber, writing for an unspecified majority of the eligible judges, said SB 1172 "does just one thing" — it requires licensed mental-health providers in California who wish to engage in sexual-orientation change therapies to "either wait until the minor turns 18 or be subject to professional discipline."
The law does not violate free-speech rights, but "regulates the provision of mental treatment," while leaving "providers free to discuss or recommend treatment and to express their views on any topic," she wrote.
Dissenting Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, who was joined by Judge Carlos T. Bea and Judge Sandra S. Ikuta, said it was a "regrettable failure" that the majority declined to rehear these cases.
The law prohibits licensed professionals "from saying certain words to their clients," Judge O'Scannlain wrote. "The First Amendment precisely forbids government from punishing speech on such grounds."
Attorney Mat Staver, who is representing therapist David H. Pickup and other plaintiffs, said the dissenting opinion sets up a path for Supreme Court review. There are "dangerous implications for speech across the board" if the government can prohibit categories of speech that it disagrees with, Mr. Staver said Wednesday.
California State Sen. Ted Lieu, who sponsored SB 1172, praised the court's action as "cement over the nail in the coffin of the bogus practice of 'reparative' therapy."
The ruling means California "can protect young people and their families from being deceived and harmed by unethical therapists who falsely claim they can change a person's sexual orientation," said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
"Every young person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and to be valued for who they are," said John O'Connor, executive director of Equality California.
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