News Law and Policy

Ninth Circuit Upholds California’s Ban on ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy for Minors

Jessica Mason Pieklo

In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel ruled the first-of-its-kind law did not violate the First Amendment.

On Thursday, a federal appeals court upheld a California law that bans the practice of “gay conversion” therapy for minors, holding the law does not violate the free speech rights of either counselors or parents.

The first-of-its-kind law bars licensed health professionals from “sexual-orientation change efforts” to patients under 18. It states that being gay “is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency or shortcoming” and cites findings and opinions by an American Psychological Association task force urging parents to avoid practitioners who use such a practice because it can pose “critical health risks,” including depression and suicidal thoughts.

Shortly after the law was passed, two separate groups brought legal challenges to the law, arguing it was unconstitutional. One challenge was brought by a group of therapists who support the practice and argued the ban violated their First Amendment rights to discuss gay conversion with young patients. In another lawsuit, a group of families argued the law violated their First Amendment religious freedoms to seek therapy that will “convert” their children from homosexuality.

A three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously held the law did not violate free speech rights of practitioners or minor patients and did not violate parents’ fundamental rights to chose appropriate care for their children.

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The Christian conservative litigation group Liberty Counsel brought the lawsuit on behalf of the therapists and families and announced via statement that it will appeal and ask the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its opinion with the entire 11-judge panel.

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