SAN FRANCISCO — The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously upheld California’s ban on providing therapy or counseling to youth struggling with homosexuality.
As previously reported, last year as the ban was being contemplated in the legislature, Governor Jerry Brown remarked that he hoped reparative therapy would be forever heaved into “the dustbin of quackery.” The bill’s author, Democratic Senator Ted Lieu of Torrance, claimed that counseling and therapy aimed at helping youth turn from the homosexual lifestyle is the equivalent of “psychological child abuse.”
Therefore, the legislation, which was approved by the state Senate in May 2012 and signed into law in September, prohibited any type of “conversion therapy,” “sexual orientation therapy,” “reparative therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts.” It affects only licensed therapists and counselors, but not members of the clergy or those otherwise unlicensed to provide professional treatment.
Soon after the bill became law, Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal organization in Orlando, Florida, filed suit in hopes of obtaining an injunction against its enforcement.
While the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency restraining order last December just before the law’s enactment, the court reversed its course on Wednesday, upholding the imposed restrictions. It stated that California legislators had a legitimate reason to bar therapists and counselors in the state from helping youth resist romantic feelings toward those of the same sex.
“The record demonstrates that the legislature acted rationally when it decided to protect the well-being of minors by prohibiting mental health providers from using SOCE on persons under 18,” the panel wrote in its 36-page opinion. “Although the legislature also had before it some evidence that SOCE is safe and effective, the overwhelming consensus was that SOCE was harmful and ineffective. On this record, we have no trouble concluding that the legislature acted rationally by relying on that consensus.”
The court pointed to the opinions of various organizations who have analyzed the matter, declaring that “homosexuality is not an illness and does not require treatment,” and that therapy “can provoke guilt and anxiety” and may “contribute to an enduring sense of stigma and self-criticism.”
However, Liberty Counsel expressed great disappointment in the decision, noting that the youth that joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs stated that they have been helped by the counseling, which they find to be personally beneficial. The National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality (NARTH) and the American Christian Counseling Association (AACC) were also represented in the lawsuit.
“The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior. They are greatly benefiting from this counseling. Their grades have gone up, their self-esteem has improved, and their relationships at home are much improved,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver.
“Legislators and judges in the state of California have essentially barged into the private therapy rooms of victimized young people and told them that their confusion, caused by the likes of a Jerry Sandusky abuser, is normal and they should pursue their unwanted and dangerous same-sex sexual attractions and behavior, regardless of whether those minors desire their religious beliefs to trump their unwanted attractions,” he lamented.
“This law is politically motivated to interfere with counselors and clients. The law is an astounding overreach by the state,” Staver added. “Under the law, counselors would be required to provide, and clients to receive, the viewpoint that same-sex attractions are normal and good. Any counsel to reduce or eliminate same-sex attractions is now banned in California.”
The Pacific Justice Institute in Sacramento also issued a statement on Wednesday decrying the ruling and vowing to fight the matter for as long as it takes.
“This decision is a dark day for those who believe in the first Amendment and the rights of parents over the proper upbringing of their children,” state President Brad Dacus. “Make no mistake, we are not finished in our efforts to overturn this outrageous legislation.”
As previously reported, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a similar bill into law earlier this month. Liberty Counsel likewise immediately filed suit against the state in an effort to block enforcement of the legislation.