California’s first-in-the-nation law banning so-called “gay conversion” therapies for minors with same-sex attractions was upheld Thursday as a three-judge federal appellate panel rejected a challenge to the law.
The law “does not violate the free speech rights of practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents’ fundamental rights,” wrote Justice Susan P. Graber of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The unanimous ruling lifted a preliminary injunction against the law and sent the cases — Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown — back to lower courts to be dismissed.
“Progress will not be stopped,” said state Sen. Ted W. Lieu, author of the bill, known as SB 1172.
Thursday’s ruling “puts another nail in the coffin for the discredited and harmful practice of gay conversion therapy,” said Mr. Lieu, who wrote the law after learning that some gay youths had suffered depression or committed suicide in conjunction with such therapy.
“The Constitution has never allowed, and never will allow, psychological child abuse,” Mr. Lieu said Thursday.
Liberty Counsel, which represented some of the plaintiffs, said it would ask for a rehearing of the case by the full 9th Circuit Court, or file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pacific Justice Institute, another firm representing opponents of the law, said it was weighing its legal options.
The ruling is “a dark day” for those who believe in the Constitution, religious freedom and parental rights, Pacific Justice Institute said. The law will put clergy who are also licensed therapists in “a legal quagmire,” as they could be punished if they follow their religious beliefs and doctrines, and help youth turn away from their unwanted same-sex sexual attractions or behaviors, it said.
Gay-rights supporters praised the decision.
It “clears the way for this life-saving law to protect California youth from cruel and damaging practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental-health professional organizations,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who argued the case on behalf of Equality California, a co-sponsor of the law.
It’s “a major victory for anyone who cares about the well-being of our youth. It will directly impact the lives of thousands of young people by protecting them from this horrific practice,” said John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, commended California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, for signing SB 1172 into law last year, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, for signing a similar law this month.
These governors are “putting children first,” and HRC calls on “all states to follow their lead on this issue,” Mr. Griffin said.
Lawmakers in New York and Massachusetts have introduced similar laws.
Opponents counter that such claims are unscientific because “virtually no research” has been done on these therapies with children.
Even the American Psychological Association says “the exact causes of same-sex attractions are not known,” said the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which sued to block the law.
What is well-documented is that teens and young adults can experience “fluidity in sexual attractions and identity” — which “suggests the viability of therapeutic change efforts for some youth,” NARTH said.
Separately, organizations for ex-gays — many of whom credit therapy for their heterosexual orientation — are promoting an event in late September aimed at raising their profile in Congress and the nation.
“We support … providing hope to those with unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion that change is possible,” Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays said in its invitation to activities with the “first annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month.”