A legal-defense group that supports traditional values filed a federal lawsuit in Sacramento, Calif., on Monday to block a new California law that bans certain kinds of counseling for youth seeking help for same-sex attraction.
“We intend to use the legislative record to show the court how this law is both unconstitutional on its face as well as applied,” Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), said of SB 1172, which California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Sunday.
A separate lawsuit is also being planned on behalf of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), counselors, parents and their minor children, said the leader of Liberty Counsel, another legal-defense organization.
The first-in-the-nation law, which is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, prohibits minors from receiving “sexual-orientation change efforts” or SOCE, a form of counseling aimed at assisting people to address and sometimes to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.
Legislative supporters and gay-rights groups denounce SOCE as “quackery” that doesn’t work and is harmful to children.
“If anyone had any doubts such practices were evil, they need only listen to accounts of victims who went through this abusive practice,” California state Sen. Ted Lieu, a Democrat representing Torrance, Calif., and lead sponsor of the bill, said Sunday after it was signed into law.
“Some victims, such as Kirk Murphy, committed suicide,” Mr. Lieu said. “This law is partly in remembrance of Kirk.”
Equality California, a gay-rights group that backed the Lieu legislation, credited the law’s passage to dozens of organizations and individuals, including Ryan Kendall and Peter Drake, who “opened their lives and sacrificed their privacy to share the damage they suffered as a result of these abusive practices.”
Many mental-health organizations, including the California Psychological Association, California Board of Behavioral Sciences, the California Latino Psychological Association and the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, endorsed the law.
However, opponents said the law is unconstitutional because it restricts First Amendment, privacy and parental rights.
This law “binds” clergy who are also licensed professional counselors “from giving any counseling that does not affirm homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle,” said Mr. Dacus, who said a member of the clergy is among the plaintiffs in PJI’s lawsuit.
The law also “makes no exceptions for young victims of sexual abuse who are plagued with unwanted same-sex attraction,” he said.
NARTH, which represents therapists who offer SOCE, said it would “lend its full support to the legal efforts to overturn” the law.
“California citizens, and especially parents, should know the indifference that supporters of this bill have toward their freedom of choice,” said NARTH President Christopher Rosik.
Supporters of the bill “equated” the well-documented harms of smoking and alcohol abuse to minors with “the reported harms of sexual-orientation change efforts, the prevalence of which the American Psychological Association admits we have no way of knowing,” said Mr. Rosik. “Anecdotal stories of harm are no basis from which to ban an entire form of psychological care.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said California lawmakers are “putting their own preconceived notions and political ideology ahead of children and their right” to choose the counseling they want.
“Mental-health decisions should be left to the patient, the parents, and the counselors — not to the government to license one viewpoint,” said Mr. Staver.