It goes by many names- ex-gay therapy, conversion therapy, reparative therapy, but the aim is always the same. It is intended to shame mostly gay men, but some lesbians too, into being straight. It is ineffective and harmful, and according to the Ninth District Court of Appeals, something that can be banned for individuals under the age of 18.
The ruling comes down against two different suits. The first is from Pacific Justice Institute and the second from NARTH and Liberty Counsel. The judges stated that the law only regulates the conduct of medical professionals and not their freedom of speech. The suits claimed that the law, which bans ex-gay therapy, violates therapist’s freedom of speech.
The ruling states that they are just not allowed to offer ex-gay therapy to minors, but they are free to discuss it.
Several proponents of ex-gay therapy have desperately tried to label bills like California Senate Bill 1172 “Jerry Sandusky Bills” for the notorious Penn State pedophile. They claim that ex-gay therapy is helpful to minors who have been sexually molested despite the fact that they have no evidence to back this up.
The justices in their ruling state that “Senate Bill 1172 regulates conduct. It bans a form of medical treatment for minors; it does nothing to prevent licensed therapists from discussing the pros and cons of SOCE with their patients. Senate Bill 1172 merely prohibits licensed mental health providers from engaging in SOCE with minors.”
They go on to rule that “We further conclude that the First Amendment does not prevent a state from regulating treatment even when that treatment is performed through speech alone.”
And also say that “Because SB 1172 regulates only treatment, while leaving mental health providers free to discuss and recommend, or recommend against, SOCE, we conclude that any effect it may have on free speech interests is merely incidental.”
With regards to how the ban infringes upon parental rights, they wrote “We are unaware of any case that specifically addresses whether a parent’s fundamental rights encompass the right to choose for a child a particular type of provider for a particular treatment that the state has deemed harmful, but courts that have considered whether patients have the right to choose specific treatments for themselves have concluded that they do not.”
And “The aforementioned cases lead us to conclude that the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific type of provider for a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful. Therefore, SB 1172 does not infringe on the fundamental rights of parents.”
The court did not rule on whether or not the ex-gay therapy is harmful, but stated that the available evidence about it shows that it is lacking in effectiveness and that the evidence shows it to be harmful.
Kate Kendall, the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, stated that “Today is the beginning of the end of these shameful and inhumane practices. We thank Senator Ted Lieu for authoring this life-saving law, Governor Jerry Brown for signing it, Attorney General Kamala Harris for tirelessly defending it against these challenges, Munger, Tolles, & Olson for their heroic efforts as our co-counsel, and our colleagues at Equality California for co-sponsoring it with us and intervening in the case as our client to help defend it.”
As I write this, I am on the verge of tears because I have met men and women who were subjected to these dangerous practices. I have seen the scars they bear—and they are the lucky ones. In some cases, young people who were told that they were sick and needed to change did not feel their lives were worth living.
Liberty Counsel has announced that they will appeal the ruling to the whole Ninth Circuit or to the US Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver claims that children “are greatly benefiting from this counseling.” Staver also claimed that homosexuality in the children was “caused by the likes of a Jerry Sandusky abuser.”
Unfortunately for Staver, the evidence that child sexual molestation leads to homosexuality is incredibly thin. While there are some individuals who have developed sexual interest in the same-sex due to child sexual molestation, most of them have benefitted from normal therapy, and not ex-gay therapy.