The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear a case on California’s 2012 ban on conversion therapy for minors. The law bans licensed mental health professionals, including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other therapists from practicing what some call counseling designed to turn youths under age 18 away from homosexuality. Many LGBTQ people call it a form of torture. Sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) have been linked to depression and suicide.
The top court’s action leaves in place the ban, rejecting a Christian minister’s challenge to the law asserting it violates religious rights.
The justices, turning away a challenge to the 2012 law for the second time in three years, let stand a lower court’s ruling that it was constitutional and neither impinged upon free exercise of religion nor impacted the activities of clergy members.
California outlawed gay conversion therapy in 2012, calling it ineffective and harmful. New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and the District of Columbia have similar laws on the books, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Supreme Court turned away a challenge to New Jersey’s law in 2015.
Donald Welch, the primary plaintiff in Welch v. Brown, is a licensed therapist and minister. He claims the California ban is a violation of his First Amendment religious rights. But California officials urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, saying the law doesn’t restrict what religious leaders can say, except in the context of a state-licensed therapy session.
And so, the Supreme Court’s action leaves in place the ban. It is one of a growing number of state and local bans against so-called “ex-gay” therapy, “reparative” therapy, and “conversion” therapy. Last week Rep. Ted Lieu and other leading Democrats introduced a bill to ban nationally all gay conversion therapy.