[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Thursday upheld [opinion, PDF] California’s law [SB 1172, PDF] prohibiting licensed therapists from counseling minors with the intent to convert their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Two federal judges have split on the issue, with one blocking the law’s enforcement and another refusing to issue an injunction [JURIST reports]. The Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday on appeals from both cases, holding, “SB 1172, as a regulation of professional conduct, does not violate the free speech rights of [“sexual orientation change efforts”] practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents’ fundamental rights.” Many groups, including the Pacific Justice Institute [advocacy website], have criticized [press release] the ruling, asserting that the law impedes on rights of free speech and religious freedom. The court, however, determined that the law regulates professional conduct rather than speech. Furthermore, to combat allegations that the law infringes upon the rights of parents, the panel stated that “parents do not have the right to choose a specific type of provider for a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful.” Violators of this law will face disciplinary action from their licensing authority.
California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] signed the bill [JURIST report] in October, making California the first state to pass a law banning this type of therapy. The bill was supported by the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, California Division, the American Psychoanalytic Association and the California Board of Behavioral Sciences [advocacy websites]. SB 1172 was approved by the California State Assembly at the end of last August and by the California Senate [JURIST reports] in May of last year. Supporters of the bill asserted that the underlying reason for the legislation is that homosexuality is not a disease and should not be treated as such. Furthermore, therapies and efforts to reverse homosexuality were 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 [advocacy website] voiced their opposition, arguing that most of the facts relied on in the bill are generalizations and loose assertions. 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].