A split decision on 'gay therapy'

Published: December 4, 2012

California’s impending ban on therapy aimed at "curing" homosexuality has received two conflicting verdicts from the same federal courthouse in less than 24 hours – one judge saying it appears to violate free speech, a second judge in a separate case saying the law merely regulates conduct the state considers harmful.

The law, the first of its kind in the nation, is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, except for two therapists and an aspiring therapist who were exempted by the judge in the first ruling. Its constitutionality will be determined by the higher courts.

SB1172 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County), prohibits licensed therapists and counselors from engaging in "sexual orientation change efforts" with anyone under age 18. Violators would be subject to discipline by state licensing boards.

Supporters, including gay-rights advocates and statewide groups of psychologists and family therapists, said the so-called reparative therapy is both deceptive and dangerous, leading to depression and self-destructive behavior.

Opponents from conservative religious organizations filed two suits in Sacramento federal court, arguing that the law violated the rights of therapists, parents and children. One suit was argued Friday before U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller, and the other was heard Monday by U.S. District Judge William Shubb.

In a ruling issued Monday night, Shubb said SB1172 punishes therapists because of the content of their speech to a patient – any attempt to get the patient to change his or her sexual orientation is grounds for discipline by a licensing board.

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