Federal judge blocks California law banning sexual orientation change therapy

Federal judge blocks California law banning sexual orientation change therapy

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of California [official website] on Monday temporarily blocked [order, PDF] California from enforcing a new law that prohibits mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) with minors. Senate Bill 1172 [text], the first of its kind, deems that any SOCE attempted on minors shall be considered unprofessional conduct and subject the mental health provider to discipline. Mental health providers Donald Welch, Anthony Duk and Aaron Bitzer sought to enjoin enforcement of SB 1172 before it goes into effect in January, claiming the law violates their right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment [text]. Judge William Shubb found that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits, granting a preliminary injunction limited only to the three plaintiffs:

Here, the public has an interest in the protection and mental well-being of minors, and the court does not take lightly the possible harm SOCE may cause minors, especially when forced on minors who did not choose to undergo SOCE. … Countered against this is the public’s interest in preserving First Amendment rights. Given the limited scope and duration of a preliminary injunction in this case, the court has no difficulty in concluding that protecting an individual’s First Amendment rights outweighs the public’s interest in rushing to enforce an unprecedented law.

The plaintiffs were represented by the Christian legal group Pacific Justice institute (PJI) [advocacy website], which welcomed the ruling [press release].

PJI filed the lawsuit challenging the bill just days after it was signed [JURIST reports] into law by California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] in October. SB 1172 was approved by the California State Assembly [JURIST report] in August and the California Senate [JURIST report] in May. Supporters of the bill, including groups such as Equality California [advocacy website] and the American Psychoanalytic Association [advocacy website] assert the reason for legislation is that homosexuality is not and should not be treated as a disease, and efforts to reverse homosexuality have proven to be detrimental to minors.