Supreme Court Leaves California’s Ban on Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’ in Place

Religious conservatives challenged the California law, arguing it violated their First Amendment rights.

Court via Shutterstock

On Monday, the Supreme Court turned away the legal challenge to a California law banning the use of gay “conversion therapy.” The denial leaves in place a federal appeals court decision that found the law constitutional.

California’s law, the first of its kind, bars licensed health professionals from “sexual orientation change efforts” to patients under 18. Under the law, those therapists and counselors who use treatments they say are designed to eliminate or reduce same-sex attractions in their patients would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards. The law does not cover the actions of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs.

Shortly after the law was passed, two separate groups filed legal challenges, arguing the ban violated their constitutional rights. The first legal challenge was brought by a group of therapists who support the practice and argued the ban violated their First Amendment rights to discuss “conversion” with young patients. A group of families filed a second lawsuit arguing the law violated their First Amendment religious freedoms to seek therapy that will “convert” their children from homosexuality.

The Christian conservative litigation group Liberty Counsel represented both the therapists and the families in those challenges.

In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled the law neither violates the free speech of mental health practitioners or minors, nor does it violate parents fundamental rights to choose appropriate care for their children.

Monday’s decision by the Roberts Court means the California ban, which had been on hold pending resolution of the litigation, can begin to take effect.