SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently
upheld a 2012 law that prohibits licensed mental health practitioners from
subjecting minors to harmful "conversion therapy" practices that
attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the bill into law in 2012, arguing
that conversion therapy was unethical and harmful, based on a number of studies.
A Harrisburg district court will consider whether a City of Harrisburg buffer zone law violates free speech. | Photo by Evlakhov Valeriy, Shutterstock
“These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and
they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” he said.
Despite such support for the bill, it raised some issues
with the opposition.
According to a July 4 article in the Los Angeles Daily News, Donald Welch, a minister
and a family therapist, argued that the law infringed on his religious freedom and
minors’ rights to privacy.
“The pastor and other opponents of the therapy ban argued
the law violated First Amendment religious freedom rights,” an ABC 10 News report
said on Aug. 23. “The court tossed out a similar lawsuit in 2014 and
the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey's ban the same year.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear both cases.”
According to the Aug. 23 Associated Press story
about the court’s decision, the Ninth Circuit argued that the ban does not
violate Welch’s religious rights, or anyone’s religious rights, because the law
is limited to licensed therapists. The court stressed that the law was not
aimed at religious leaders.
In a February 2 article in the Huffington Post, it
explained that U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced further legislation known as the
Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which could take the law to all 50 states.
“If passed, the law would classify conversion therapy as a
fraudulent practice that would be illegal under the Federal Trade Commission
Act.,” the article said. “The law would also ban all advertising that claims
the therapy can successfully change a person’s sexual orientation or gender
Furthermore, Lieu explained that the conversion therapy law
should also protect adults.
“Lieu’s federal bill goes further than any of the state bans
on the practice, which forbid licensed therapists from offering the service to
minors, but still allow them to perform it on adults,” the Huffington Post article said.
In addition to protecting people from undergoing the
therapy, Lieu argued that the bill could be a considerable blow to opponents of
Even within psychology and similar professions, there is
some debate as to how much the law should get involved.
“Opponents of the law, including the National Association
for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, say there is no scientific basis for
banning such therapies,” an August 2012 Wall Street Journal article said. “Christopher
Rosik, a psychologist, said that Mr. Lieu's claims represented ‘rhetoric, not
research,’ and that the legislation had a ‘clear intent to intimidate
therapists and supplant the rights of parents.’"
Even the California Psychological Association initially
opposed the bill, citing concern about the intrusion of the legislature into
clinical practice efforts to change sexual orientation, the Wall Street Journal
Much like the recent decision, Judge Susan P. Graber, the
author of the 2014 Ninth Circuit panel opinion, argued that psychotherapy should
be viewed as conduct rather than speech.
“The law regulates only treatment, while leaving mental
health providers free to discuss and recommend, or recommend against," the