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Ninth Circuit Enjoins Gay Conversion Therapy Ban

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Conversion therapy proponents say that it's a matter best left to mental health professionals and patients. Opponents call it "quackery."

Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to put a ban against the practice on hold.

So what's all the fuss about?

In October, California adopted SB 1172, a law barring mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with patients under 18 years of age.

Last week, plaintiffs opposing SB 1172 asked the Ninth Circuit to enjoin enforcement of the bill. Attorneys for two religiously-oriented therapists and a therapy student -- who claims to have successfully completed reparative therapy -- filed a lawsuit in October, claiming that SB 1172 would intrude on free speech, privacy and freedom of religion, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Though a district court declined to enjoin enactment of the bill, the notoriously-liberal Ninth Circuit surprisingly agreed to delay enactment pending a decision on its constitutionality, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Conversion therapy may seem like a matter that the Ninth Circuit will eventually oppose, but the plaintiffs made a compelling argument to support their motion for injunction: They explained that counselors are already offering SOCE therapy (change of sexual orientation, attractions, behavior, or identity), so allowing the ban to become effective would actually be a change from the status quo.

In a reply filed with the appellate court last week, the group wrote, "Without immediate action by this Court, in a matter of days all Plaintiffs will face irreparable harm. With their licenses at stake ... the Counselors will be forced into silence. Their speech will be chilled. The minors who are benefiting from such counsel will abruptly be prevented from receiving counsel they have chosen. Their parents will be unable to care for their children and will also be prevented from receiving this beneficial counseling."

A similar argument could be persuasive regarding the ultimate issue. There are obviously people who are pleased with the results of conversion therapy. It may sound like "quackery" to some, but the same could be said about hypnosis; it doesn't mean the state should ban it as a treatment method.

Regardless of the outcome in the district court, this seems like an issue that will be hotly debated both in and out of court for years to come.

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