[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday considered California’s ban [SB 1172; Senate backgrounder, PDF] on psychotherapy practices intended to convert gay teenagers into straight teenagers. The three-judge panel heard arguments [San Jose Mercury News report] on whether the First Amendment right to free speech extends to the controversial psychotherapy practice, or whether the legislature had the authority to pass such a ban as a means of regulating the state’s licensed mental health professionals. Two federal judges have split on the issue, with one blocking the law’s enforcement and another refusing to issue an injunction [JURIST reports]. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit temporarily blocked the law [JURIST report] in December.
California became the first state to enact a law banning conversion therapy [JURIST report] in October. The bill was approved by the California State Assembly at the end of August and by the California Senate [JURIST reports] last May. Supporters of the bill assert that the underlying reason for the legislation is that homosexuality is not a disease and that therapies to reverse homosexuality have been found to have detrimental effects on minors’ physical and mental health, leading to suicides and substance abuse. Conversely, groups such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) [advocacy website] have voiced their opposition, arguing that most of the facts on which the bill relies are generalizations and loose assertions. Those who oppose the ban also insist that such measures prevent teens from choosing to obtain professional help if they choose. According to some experts, California’s efforts to pass the ban on sexual orientation therapy have highlighted a need for better gender identity standards [JURIST op-ed].