The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal against California’s ban on anti-gay “reparative therapy” for minors, thus letting the ban stand.
SB-1172, which was originally signed into law in September 2012 by California governor Jerry Brown, proposed to make California the first state in the US to legally forbid licensed counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists from using any form of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on children under eighteen.
According to the text of the bill, it “would prohibit a mental health provider, as defined, from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, as defined, with a patient under 18 years of age. The bill would provide that any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity.”
The ban was challenged by the conservative group Liberty Counsel, which claimed that the law was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. They also charged that it would deny the rights of parents to raise their children as they chose.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means that the law, which had been suspended pending appeals, can finally be implemented. The ban was originally supposed to take effect in January 2013.
New Jersey, currently the only other state with such a ban, has also been sued over it. The parents of a teenager known only as “John Doe” challenged the ban, claiming that denying SOCE to children (adults remain entitled to seek it out, if they so choose) is wrong because it “can help them address the conflicts between their religious and moral values and same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity.”
However, studies have shown that so-called “reparative therapy” is not only ineffective, but detrimental to mental health. In 2009, the American Psychological Association released an official report, titled “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.” The report states that it is “unlikely” such therapy can achieve any of its stated goals, and that the association found “evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm… negative side effects included loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety.”
On June 24, 2014, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) launched #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, described as “a national effort aimed at protecting LGBT kids from the harms caused by attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In a press release for the campaign, SOCE survivor Deb Cuny was quoted as saying, “No LGBTQ kid should ever have to endure what I did. No child should ever be told that they are broken, pressured into being cleansed of evil that doesn’t exist, or forced to choose between being honest about who they are and being loved. I absolutely believe the #BornPerfect campaign is going to save lives and put a long overdue end to conversion therapy.”