SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Friday blocked the start of a new California law that prohibits therapists from practicing sexual orientation conversion, or “reparative,” therapy on minors.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency order Friday putting the law on hold until it can hear full arguments on the issue.
The law was set to take effect Jan. 1 — today’s decision temporarily postpones that date until the court rules on the underlying appeal of a decision earlier this month by Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In her ruling, Mueller denied a request by an anti-LGBT organization to stop the law from going into effect.
Earlier this month, Mueller also granted a motion by Equality California, an LGBT advocacy group, to intervene in the lawsuit and defend the law alongside California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who represents the State of California defendants. Equality California is represented in the case by National Center for Lesban Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.
The Ninth Circuit has put the case on a fast track and will rule on that appeal early next year.The law, authored by state Sen. Ted Lieu, was co-sponsored by NCLR, Equality California, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law on Sept. 29.
If the court rules in favor of the law, California would become the first state in the nation to prohibit licensed mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts of any kind for a minor patient, regardless of a parent’s willingness or desire to authorize participation in such programs.
“Every leading medical and mental health organization has warned therapists and parents that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression and suicide,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter.
“No young person should be subjected to these dangerous practices, and no licensed therapist should be permitted to engage in practices that cause such serious harm. We are pleased that this case is on a fast track so that this lifesaving law can take effect as soon as possible,” said Minter.