California Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy Stands

Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Same-sex marriage supporters wave a rainbow flag in front of the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2013 in Washington.

The Supreme Court will not hear cases challenging the 2012 law

California’s ban on gay conversion therapy is set to take effect after the Supreme Court declined to hear two cases challenging its legality.

The measure prohibits mental health providers from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts” with minors, meaning that therapists and other licensed counselors are not allowed to engage in the controversial practice of attempting to rid someone under 18 of homosexual feelings. Governor Jerry Brown signed the ban into law in 2012, but it has been delayed by a series of legal challenges.

Opponents argued that the ban infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion, while supporters defended the ban as an extension of the conditions for providing licenses to counselors in the state. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with that argument, upholding the law in 2013. The Supreme Court ended its term today without hearing two challenges to that ruling, effectively permitting the law to take effect.

California and New Jersey are the only states that ban so-called reparative therapy. In June, the New York Assembly passed a bill that would have outlawed using conversion therapy on minors in the state, but the measure stalled in the Senate.

A challenge to New Jersey’s ban is scheduled to be heard by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals July 9. Should the court rule against the ban, it would mean a split decision among circuit courts that could lead the Supreme Court to revisit the issue. “Our fight’s not over,” says Daniel Schmid, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel, which argued against the California law.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a strong supporter of the California law, launched the #BornPerfect campaign on June 24, an effort to see conversion therapy banned in all 50 states. “We look forward to more states joining California and New Jersey in preventing state-licensed therapists from engaging in discredited practices,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said in a statement.

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