US: Appeals court to hear arguments around constitutionality of California ‘gay cure’ ban

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The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is on Wednesday to hear arguments around California’s law prohibiting “gay cure” therapy, as administered by mental health professionals.

The Associated Press reports that a three-judge panel will consider arguments around the law, which was due to come into effect on 1 January, but which was blocked by the court until it ruled on its constitutionality.

The court decided on 21 December to block the law that was to take effect on 1 January 2013. On 3 January, California Governor Jerry Brown appealed the injunction that has so far prevented the enforcement of the new law.

The law would mean that medical practitioners who offered the therapy would be committing professional misconduct, and would be subject to disciplinary actions.

It would not effect unlicensed counsellors, who offer therapy through church programs, or pastors, who offer similar services.

The court is considering two cases, both brought by professionals who practice the therapy, take into account two families who claim their teenage sons benefitted from undergoing the practice.

According to the AP, a national association of Christian mental health counsellors argue that Governor Brown’s ban infringes on their free speech, religious rights and freedom of association. They also argued that counsellors would lose their livelihoods through the ban.

Lawyers for those opposed to the bill said: “The state has determined that the only permissible message [is that] same-sex attractions, behavior or identity are to be accepted, supported and understood, thus suppressing all other viewpoints to the detriment of licensed professionals and their vulnerable minor clients,

“The viewpoint of counselors who in their professional judgment determine that same-sex attractions conflict with the religious and moral beliefs of clients and are not desired, is silenced by SB 1172. This raises a serious constitutional question.”

The bill’s supporters, including Attorney General Kamala Harris, argued that the ban on the practice was necessary to protect children and teenagers from the practice which has been denounced or questioned by every mental health association, and which puts them at higher risk of suicide.

Harris said the law to ban the practice “is based on a scientific and professional consensus reached decades ago that homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality and not a disease, condition, or disorder in need of a ‘cure.'”

The three judges on the case do not have a deadline to make a decision.

Last September, campaigners and medical professionals welcomed California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to ban teenagers from accessing discredited treatments that seek to reject an LGBT identity.

Governor Brown said in a statement that gay “conversion therapy” had “no basis in science or medicine,” and that it would be “relegated to the dustbin of quackery”.

The New Jersey Senate Health Committee recently passed similar legislation banning the practice of gay conversion therapy.

The Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, since officially announced his opposition to the therapy, after previously saying he had been undecided on the issue.