A federal appeals court will hear arguments today on whether or not a ban on the controversial ‘gay conversion therapy’ violates first amendment rights.
The California ban prohibits licensed medical professionals from using methods aimed at converting gays and lesbians to heterosexuals. Any therapist or counselor who engages in such methodology would be subject to discipline by the state licensing board for unprofessional conduct. It would not apply, however, to unlicensed lay counselors and pastors who practice gay conversion therapy through a church program.
This is not enough for the plaintiffs; professionals who practice sexual orientation change therapy, two families who say their teenage sons benefited from it, and a national association of Christian mental health counselors, who claim the California ban violates their first amendment rights to free speech, free association, and freedom of religion, and furthermore, jeopardizes their livelihoods.
“The state has determined that the only permissible message (is that) same-sex attractions, behavior or identity are to be accepted, supported and understood, thus suppressing all other viewpoints to the detriment of licensed professionals and their vulnerable minor clients,” lawyers for the families, several practitioners and the professional group said.
Defendants of the ban, such as Dr. Jo Linder-Crow, Chief Executive Officer at the California Psychological Association, point out that the law is based on scientific evidence and professional consensus that homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality—not a disease, mental disorder, or condition in need of a cure.
She moreover said that the ban “has nothing to do with religion.”
“The law only effects licensed mental health professionals,” Dr. Linder-Crow told 429Magazine. “A majority of the work done in conversion therapy is not done by licensed counselors because most licensed professional don’t believe in this approach.”
Dr. Linder-Crow also believes that minors should explore their sexuality and since most already do, there needs to be a safe space for them, which the ban would help ensure.
Another supporter of the ban, Attorney General Kamala Harris says that conversion therapy is actually harmful for minors. The prohibition on “reparative” and “conversion” therapy is necessary to protect children from coercive practices that can put them at increased risk of suicide and whose efficacy has been questioned or rejected by every major mental health association.
Today both arguments will be reviewed by a three-judge panel. Previously, two federal judges in Sacramento reached opposite decisions in separate lawsuits about whether or not the ban, which was scheduled to take effect January 1, should be enforced while the appeal process is in place. One judge ruled in favor of gay conversion enthusiasts while the other sided with the state.