Note from the Editors:
On December 3, United States District Court Judge William Shubb ruled that the ban on conversion therapy signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown may violate free speech rights of therapists who oppose homosexuality. Judge Shubb issued an injunction preventing the state from enforcing the ban against the three providers who sued to block the ban.
Judge Shubb wrote, “Even if SB1172 is characterized as primarily aimed at regulating conduct, it also extends to forms of (conversion therapy) that utilize speech and, at a minimum, regulates conduct that has an incidental effect on speech.” He also claimed the California Legislature’s findings were based on questionable studies.
A separate claim brought by therapists and parents asserted the conversion therapy ban violated free speech, religious, and parental rights. This claim came before another federal judge on December 4, who declined to interfere with the ban. The claimants appealed.
California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law legislation that prohibits attempts to change the sexual orientation of children under the age of 18. The legislation will take effect January 1, 2013.
After signing the bill, Governor Brown stated, “This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide . . . These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
David Pickup, a spokesman for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, said in response to the legislation that his group, along with “individual therapists and individual minor clients” will file a “major lawsuit” to challenge the law. Pickup asserted to CNN that for California to have “a bill that says, ‘No, we can’t even talk about these issues, we can’t do anything to help these children resolve their homosexual feelings and maximize their heterosexual potential’ – that’s the height of political and therapeutic irresponsibility.” The Pacific Justice Institute also plans to file its own lawsuit, arguing the legislation runs afoul of the First Amendment.
Pickup, who underwent such therapy himself, claims his organization does “competent therapy” that “truly works.” He believes there is a “cause-and-effect nature of homosexuality” that can be rooted in abuse, un-met needs from same-sex parents, and “inner wounds” discovered during therapy. Pickup also argued the American Psychiatric Association (“Association”) has never found any proof that this therapy causes any harm.
However, the Association has found conversion therapy poses great risks to its patients, including depression and anxiety. The Association also suggested that the therapy reinforces self-hatred of patients. With regard to homosexuality, the Association claims, “the longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.”
The conservative religious organization Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays argues that the ban takes away parents’ right to care for their children. The group wrote a letter to California Senator Ted Lieu, who authored the legislation, asserting, “As parents of gays and ex-gays, we are ashamed of your willingness to take action against parents, children, and the family in order to support gay activists.” The letter went on to say, “California is not a socialist state and our children do not belong to the government, subject to the ideology of the state over the objection of their parents.”
This debate may be resolved in court. The Pacific Justice Institute filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing the law violates privacy rights and the First Amendment. Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, released a written statement arguing “[o]f all the freedom-killing bills we have seen in our legislature in the last several years, this is amongst the worst.” Dacus also told a local news station that the legislation is “an outrageous violation of the fundamental First Amendment and privacy rights of young people. We hope to accomplish the protection and defense of the civil rights of young people.” Along with Dacus, the Pacific Justice Institute hopes to “use the legislative record to show the court how this law is both unconstitutional on its face as well as applied.”
Senator Lieu, a former prosecutor, has called the lawsuit “frivolous.” In a statement, Lieu made the following assertion: “Under the plaintiffs’ argument, the First Amendment would shield therapists and psychiatrists from medical malpractice and psychological abuse claims simply because they use speech in their medicine. That is a novel and frivolous view of the First Amendment.”
Christopher Rosik, the president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, stated that supporters of the bill are “indifferent” toward homosexual’s freedom of choice. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality plans to file a separate lawsuit challenging the California legislation.