Appeals Court Hears Challenges to Calif. 'Reparative Therapy' Ban

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com April 17 2013 1:01 PM ET

A federal appeals court today is hearing a challenge to California’s ban on so-called reparative therapy, aimed at turning gay people straight.

California passed the law last year, prohibiting state-licensed therapists from performing reparative therapy on minors. It was scheduled to take effect in January, but in December a court put it on hold.

Two suits challenging the legislation are being heard by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Associated Press reports. Both were brought by conservative legal groups — one, Liberty Counsel, the other, the Pacific Justice Institute — on behalf of practitioners and private citizens. In December there were conflicting rulings on the suits in trial courts, with a federal judge in the Liberty Counsel case saying the law did not violate free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and one in the Pacific Justice Institute case saying it did, so the appeals court must try to resolve those differences.

California governor Jerry Brown, who signed the measure into law, and state attorney general Kamala Harris say they will defend it vigorously. Harris has noted that the law “is based on a scientific and professional consensus reached decades ago that homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality and not a disease, condition, or disorder in need of a ‘cure.’” Meanwhile, the groups bringing the suits have pledged to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Two other states, New Jersey and Massachusetts, are considering similar laws.

Even if the California law goes into effect, however, some counselors in the state may continue to perform reparative therapy, as many of the practitioners who offer it are not state-licensed.