California Gay Conversion Therapy Ban Blocked by Court

Therapists who counsel patients under 18 years of age on changing their sexual orientation to avoid homosexuality won an emergency order from a federal appeals court in San Francisco temporarily blocking a California law that outlaws the practice.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted a request by therapist David Pickup and others who are suing to overturn the law signed signed Sept. 30 by California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

``California was correct to outlaw this unsound and harmful practice, and the attorney general will vigorously defend this law,'' Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, said in an e-mailed statement.

The opponents of the law appealed a Dec. 4 ruling by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller in Sacramento, who said citizens don’t have a right to choose a mental health treatment the state has deemed harmful to minors. Parents seeking the therapy can still get it through churches or unlicensed providers, Mueller said.

The appeals court didn’t give a reason for its ruling yesterday.

“This law is politically motivated to interfere with counselors and clients,” Matthew Staver, a lawyer with Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal group representing Pickup. “This law is an astounding overreach by the government into the realm of counseling and would have caused irreparable harm.”

Free Speech

Another federal judge in Sacramento, ruling in a separate case, said a family therapist, psychiatrist and aspiring therapist who sued to block the law are “likely to succeed” on their claims that it violates constitutionally protected free speech rights.

Judge William B. Shubb’s ruling barred the state from enforcing the measure against those three people until their lawsuit is resolved.

The appeals court granted the injunction pending the outcome of the therapists’ appeal. The law was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.

The cases are Pickup v. Brown, 12-cv-2497, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento), and Welch v. Brown, 12-cv-02484, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).

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