Court upholds law banning therapy to change sexual orientation

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A three-judge panel upheld a law banning therapy to change sexual orientation of minors.
(Susan Ragan / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court Thursday upheld a state law that prohibits licensed mental health therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel said the never-enforced law does not violate the free speech rights of patients or professionals, or the fundamental rights of parents. The state has the right to prohibit treatment it deems harmful, the court said.

Therapy to change a person’s sexual orientation began when the psychiatric profession considered homosexuality a disease, a belief that was abandoned in the early 1970s. Major psychological associations now consider the therapy potentially harmful.


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The California law, blocked before it could be enforced, subjects licensed professionals to discipline if they try to change a minor’s sexual orientation. California was the first state to ban the therapy, and New Jersey followed this year.

“The 1st Amendment does not prevent a state from regulating treatment even when that treatment is performed through speech alone,” the panel concluded.


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