Kirsten Andersen

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Federal court blocks California reparative therapy ban

Kirsten Andersen
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SACRAMENTO, December 4, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal judge has temporarily barred California from enforcing its ban on reparative therapy for children and teens.  California is the first state to place restrictions on reparative therapy, which is designed to help people with same-sex attraction fight their homosexual urges and develop healthy relationships with the opposite sex.  Homosexual activists claim the therapy harms same-sex attracted youth by making them feel as if their sexual urges are bad or wrong, leading them to depression or even suicide. 

Governor Jerry Brown signed a law banning reparative therapy for use with minors in October, calling it “quackery.”  The ban is set to go into effect January 1.

Three therapists in California sued to overturn the ban, arguing it violates their constitutional right to free speech.  The plaintiffs in the case are psychiatrist Anthony Duk, marriage and family therapist Donald Welch, and Aaron Bitzer, who underwent reparative therapy himself and is now studying to become a counselor to help others overcome same-sex attraction.

U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb on Monday agreed to block enforcement of the law until a trial can be held.  He limited the scope of his decision to just the three named plaintiffs, meaning other reparative therapists will have to observe the ban on treating minors until a ruling is made in the case. However, the judge said in his injunction that he expects the trio to prevail in getting the law struck down on constitutional grounds.

Judge Shubb ruled that the First Amendment rights of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals who provide reparative therapy outweigh gay activists’ concerns about the practice.

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“Even if [the ban] is characterized as primarily aimed at regulating conduct, it also extends to forms of [reparative therapy] that utilize speech and, at a minimum, regulates conduct that has an incidental effect on speech,” Shubb wrote.

The judge challenged the California Legislature’s assertion that encouraging young people to resist or overcome same-sex attraction puts them at risk for suicide or depression, saying it was based on “questionable and scientifically incomplete studies.”

Despite the limited scope of Judge Shubb’s injunction, Pacific Justice Institute president Brad Dacus, whose group is representing the plaintiffs in court, said he expects it to have a wider impact on enforcement of the ban, perhaps preventing licensing boards from targeting other practitioners.

“If there are any,” Dacus said, “we can easily add them to the case as a plaintiff.  We know we will have to have another hearing on the merits, but to be able to get a preliminary injunction at this stage is very telling as to the final outcome, and I’m very encouraged by it.”

Another federal judge in Sacramento is also hearing arguments against the ban. Four counselors, two families and a professional association of Christian counselors have sued to overturn it.  That judge has not yet made a decision in the case.

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