The Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging a new California law that prohibits mental health providers in the state from attempting to change the sexual orientation of minors.
S.B. 1172, which takes effect at the beginning of 2013, violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and religious freedom, according to the lawsuit. The Liberty Counsel also said in the lawsuit that S.B. 1172 interfered with the doctor-patient relationship by preventing patients from being provided the full range of treatment options.
“This law forces clients to receive and counselors to provide only one viewpoint on the subject of same-sex attractions, even when the client does not want to act on those attractions,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “This law even forbids counselors from referring clients to someone of their choice. For the state to assume that it knows best what kind of counseling individuals should receive is the height of hubris and ignorance.”
The law completely bans so-called “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy for those under 18. For adult patients, the new law requires patients to fill out a consent form that states “a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder” and notes the therapy could be harmful.
When signing the legislation into law in September, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said the therapy was being “relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both officially stated there is no solid evidence that reparative therapy can change sexual orientation, but said there was evidence it could be harmful.
“These extreme anti-LGBT groups are grasping at straws with these lawsuits,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), said in a statement. “Every mainstream medical and mental health association in the country has warned that these practices are ineffective and dangerous.
“The state has the right and obligation to protect young people from this abuse, which can lead to depression, substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. This law is no different from a thousand others that protect kids, from prohibiting underage smoking and drinking to requiring parents to use car seats. NCLR will commit all the energy and resources necessary to defend this vital and life-saving law.”
[Gay men kiss via Shutterstock]