Ninth Circuit Upholds Law Banning 'Ex-gay Therapy' for California Minors

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August 29, 2013

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a ruling upholding SB 1172 - the California law prohibiting state-licensed mental health providers from using dangerous efforts to change sexual orientation - sometimes referred to as "ex-gay therapy" - with minors. The law was co-sponsored by Lambda Legal, Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Mental Health America of Northern California and Gaylesta, and went into effect January 1, 2013.

Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg said:

In its opinion, the Ninth Circuit clearly articulated the targeted scope and purpose of this law, which is to prevent licensed mental health providers in California from using therapies with minors that are demonstrably harmful. The friend-of-the-court brief we filed in these cases on behalf of 13 regional and national organizations working with LGBTQ youth documented the cruel impact of these sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). With this ruling, LGBTQ youth across California are protected from the trauma of so-called 'ex-gay therapy' and the devastation these discredited methods cause  youth and their families.

Today's ruling came in two separate lawsuits challenging the law: Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown. The judges in these two cases issued conflicting rulings. In Pickup, the U.S. District Court judge refused to delay enforcement of the law, while in Welch a different U.S. District Court judge granted the plaintiffs' motion seeking a delay in implementation. The plaintiffs appealed the Pickup ruling to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, as did the defendants - California Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials - in the Welch case. The Ninth Circuit combined the two cases.

Lambda Legal's amicus brief was filed on behalf of: Children's Law Center of California; Dependency Legal Group of San Diego; East Bay Children's Law Offices; Gaylesta; The LGBTQ-Affirmative Therapist Guild of Utah; Legal Advocates for Children and Youth; Legal Services for Children; Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center; Los Angeles Youth Network; Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; Public Counsel; The Trevor Project; and Truth Wins Out.

Efforts to change a young person's sexual orientation pose critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. For minors, who are often subjected to these practices at the insistence of parents who don't know or don't believe that the efforts are harmful, the risks of long-term mental and physical health consequences are particularly severe. In addition, when these efforts "fail," many LGBTQ children are kicked out of their homes.

Read the press release.