Challenge to California Ban on ‘Conversion Therapy’ Falls Flat

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Challenge to California Ban on ‘Conversion Therapy’ Falls Flat

Nicole Knight

Parents and therapists unsuccessfully sued to block the state law, calling it an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment religious rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday once again rebuffed a challenge to a ban on the harmful practice of attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a child or teen.

The Roberts Court let stand a 2012 California law that bars licensed health professionals from counseling patients under 18 to change their sexual orientation—what’s known as gay “conversion therapy.”

Groups of parents and therapists unsuccessfully sued to block the state law, calling it an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment religious rights, as Rewire reported. The families argued they had the right to “convert” their children from homosexuality. California’s Ninth Circuit rejected the challenge, as did the Supreme Court on Monday.

The Supreme Court in 2015 turned away a similar challenge to a New Jersey law banning “conversion therapy,” as Reuters reported.

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“So far there is no disagreement in the federal courts that these laws do not infringe on the First Amendment so there is simply no reason for the Court to step in and say otherwise,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of law and the courts. “If and until a federal court says otherwise there’s no controversy for the Court to resolve.”

The health risks of so-called conversion therapy are significant, and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, according to the American Psychiatric Association. All major mental health and pediatric groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists, reject the notion that homosexuality is a disorder that requires treatment.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) last week reintroduced federal legislation to crack down on purveyors of  “conversion therapy” by making the practice illegal. A similar bill introduced last year would have given the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general the power to go after people and businesses that advertise or provide the so-called therapy.