A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that California’s law banning so-called “gay conversion” or reorientation therapies for minors is constitutional. Full opinion is below.

According to the summary authored by Court staff:

Reversing an order granting preliminary injunctive relief
in Welch v. Brown, 13-15023, and affirming the denial of
preliminary injunctive relief in Pickup v. Brown, 12-17681,
the panel held that California Senate Bill 1172, which bans
state-licensed mental health providers from engaging in
“sexual orientation change efforts” with patients under 18
years of age, does not violate the free speech rights of
practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor
overbroad, and does not violate parents’ fundamental rights.
The panel held that Senate Bill 1172 regulates
professional conduct, not speech and therefore was subject
only to a rational basis review.

The panel held that under its
police power, California has authority to prohibit licensed
mental health providers from administering therapies that the
legislature has deemed harmful, and the fact that speech may
be used to carry out those therapies does not turn the
prohibitions of conduct into prohibitions of speech. The
panel further concluded that the First Amendment does not
prevent a state from regulating treatment even when that
treatment is performed through speech alone. The panel
concluded that the record demonstrated that the legislature
acted rationally when it decided to protect the well-being of
minors by prohibiting mental health providers from using
“sexual orientation change efforts” on persons under 18.

The panel further held that: (1) SB 1172 did not implicate
the right to freedom of association because freedom of
association does not encompass the therapist-client
relationship; (2) SB 1172 was neither void for vagueness nor
overbroad because the text of SB 1172 was clear to a
reasonable person and any incidental effect that the ban had
on speech was small in comparison to its legitimate sweep;
and (3) the ban did not infringe on the fundamental rights of
parents because parents do not have the right to choosespecific type of provider for a specific medical or mental
health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed
harmful.

9th Circuit Upholds California Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy for Minors by David Hart

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.