First Amendment

9th Circuit upholds California ban on 'conversion therapy' for gay youths


A federal appeals court has upheld a California law that bars therapists from providing “conversion therapy”—which seeks to change sexual orientation from gay to heterosexual—for patients under age 18.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the ban does not violate the free speech or associational rights of therapists and patients. Nor does the law violate the fundamental rights of parents to make important medical decisions for children, the court said.

“Under its police power,” the court said, “California has authority to prohibit licensed mental health providers from administering therapies that the legislature has deemed harmful, and … the fact that speech may be used to carry out those therapies does not turn the prohibitions of conduct into prohibitions of speech. … We further conclude that the First Amendment does not prevent a state from regulating treatment even when that treatment is performed through speech alone.”

The San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times reported on the decision. The stories note that New Jersey recently adopted its own ban on conversion therapy.

Liberty Counsel, one of the groups that challenged the ban, links to the opinion (PDF). In a press release, the group says it will seek an en banc rehearing or review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is Pickup v. Brown.

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