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Federal appeals court upholds Calif. ban on reparative therapy for minors

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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SAN FRANCISCO –A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider its ruling upholding a California law that prohibits psychological counseling aimed at changing a minor’s sexual orientation.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Tuesday that a majority of its 27 judges voted against scheduling a new hearing.

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That leaves intact California’s first-in-the nation law barring licensed counselors from offering treatment geared toward changing the sexual orientation of minors, a practice referred to as reparative or conversion therapy.

The Legislature based the law on the unanimous consensus of the nation’s leading medical and mental health associations that such purported treatments have no scientific basis and put children at risk of serious harms, including depression and suicide.

The statute was challenged by therapists who argued that the law violated their right to freedom of speech.

On Aug. 29, 2013, a panel of the Ninth Circuit held that California’s law was a permissible regulation of medical treatment to protect public health and safety, and did not violate the free speech rights of therapists.

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“Today’s decision affirms that California can protect young people and their families from being deceived and harmed by unethical therapists who falsely claim they can change a person’s sexual orientation,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“These practices have no scientific basis and can cause serious, lasting harms that devastate families and destroy young lives,” said Minter.

Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal aid group that challenged the law, said it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

New Jersey enacted a similar law in 2013. A federal district court upheld New Jersey’s law on November 8, 2013, and that law is currently the subject of an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

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