Metro Weekly

Supreme Court rejects challenge to California conversion therapy ban

Pacific Justice Institute lawsuit had argued the law restricted therapists' First Amendment rights

Supreme Court Marriage - Photo: Todd Franson
Supreme Court – Photo: Todd Franson

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to overturn California’s law banning “ex-gay” conversion therapy on minors, reports Bloomberg Politics.

The Supreme Court’s decision gives hope to other states wishing to ban the practice, and frustrates efforts by social conservatives to persuade the court that the measure violates their ability to practice their religious beliefs.

The lawsuit was brought by the Pacific Justice Institute on behalf of three plaintiffs: Donald Welch, a licensed therapist and minister, psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Duk, and Aaron Bitzer, a former client who had undergone conversion therapy and said it had been successful in combating unwanted same-sex attraction.

California officials argued that the Supreme Court should not hear the case, noting that the law doesn’t restrict religious leaders’ freedom of speech.

The law also allows a licensed provider to refer a minor to religious leaders for further counseling if the client objects to homosexuality from a religious standpoint.

California’s law was first passed in 2012. Since then, five other states and the District of Columbia have successfully banned the practice on minors. Several cities, primarily in Florida and Ohio, have also banned the practice.

According to the Movement Advancement Project, about one-quarter of the country lives in a state where licensed therapists, counselors, and social workers are prohibited from subjecting minors to conversion therapy.

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who authored the law as a California state senator, tweeted that he was “ecstatic” that the Supreme Court had rejected the Pacific Justice Institute’s lawsuit.

Lieu later followed up that tweet with an official statement.

“The Supreme Court has rightly rejected the challenge to the constitutionality of California’s gay conversion therapy ban. Five years ago when I authored California’s law, we knew that the Constitution does not prevent government from banning an evil and fake therapy,” Lieu said. “The time is now for a federal ban of the fraudulent and harmful practice of conversion therapy. Progress will not be stopped.”

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is the end of the line for unethical therapists who claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, whose #BornPerfect campaign seeks to ban conversion therapy at the state level in all states by the end of 2019.

“The Supreme Court has rejected every attempt to challenge this important and groundbreaking law, which remains in full force and effect,” Minter added. “California should take great pride in being the first state in the country to ban these dangerous practices and to ensure that state-licensed therapists cannot take advantage of vulnerable children and families.”

This story was updated to include additional comment from U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. 

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