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Federal judge rules California ban on conversion therapy can go forward

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by an anti-LGBT group to postpone the January 1, 2013 start of California’s new law banning controversial gay-to-straight conversion, or “reparative” therapy, for LGBT youth.

The ruling by Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California means that the law will go into effect as scheduled.

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Mueller’s decision follows a separate decision Monday by Judge William B. Shubb, also of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, in another case brought by a different set of plaintiffs who are also challenging the California law.

In that ruling, Shubb issued an order temporarily exempting three plaintiffs in that case from being subjected to enforcement of the law while the case proceeds in his court. Shubb’s order applies only to the three plaintiffs in the case before him and does not prevent the state from enforcing the law against other licensed mental health professionals.

Mueller’s decision today clears the way for the law to go into effect on January 1, 2013.

The court also granted a motion by Equality California to intervene in the lawsuit in order to defend the law alongside California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who represents the State of California defendants. Equality California was the lead sponsor of the law and is the state’s leading political advocacy group representing LGBT people and their families.

The Court’s decision Tuesday was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) that challenges the new law protecting LGBT youth from practices — including the use of shame and aversion therapy — that are known to lead to depression and suicide attempts. The group is represented by Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT legal group.

In rejecting the groups’ request to temporarily prevent the statute from going into effect on January 1, Mueller concluded that the California law “prohibits a therapeutic practice deemed unproven and potentially harmful to minors by ten professional associations of mental health experts.”

The measure — Calif. Senate Bill 1172 — was authored by state Sen. Ted Lieu and sponsored by Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations including the California Psychological Association, the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on September 29, 2012.

“This law will put a stop to one of the most dangerous and discredited forms of discrimination against LGBT youth,” said Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor. “We are extremely pleased that the court’s decision will allow the law to go into effect on January 1, 2013 as planned, and young people in this state will no longer have to fear that they can be subjected to these dangerous practices by licensed therapists.”

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