As landmark California law heads to court, few support reparative therapy for minors

SB1172 would prevent licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

JudgesTools IconTwo lawsuits (Pickup v Brown and Welch v Brown) have sought to stop the implementation of SB1172, California’s landmark bill passed last year that outlaws the practice of reparative therapy on minors. Though one of these suits did lead to an injunction preventing 1172 from taking effect until the legal challenges could be sorted out, things aren’t looking good for those who would like it to remain legal for licensed therapists to try to turn gay kids straight.

Here is a list of all those who have filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in support of SB1172, as of the February 10 listing on the federal appeals court’s web page for this case. I’ve put the major professional mental health associations in bold. (Full disclosure: I’m on the AAMFT-CA Board of Directors, and represented the organization in a lot of work on SB1172 and the brief onto which AAMFT-CA signed.)

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy – California Division
American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Episcopal Bishop of California
California Council of Churches
California Faith for Equality
California Network of Metropolitan Community Churches
California Psychological Association
Children’s Law Center of California
City and County of San Francisco
Dependency Legal Group of San Diego
Dr. Jack Drescher
East Bay Children’s Law Offices
Equality California
First Amendment Scholars
Health Law Scholars
Justice and Witness Ministries
The LGBTQ-Affirmative Therapist Guild of Utah
Legal Advocates for Children and Youth
Legal Services for Children
Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center
Los Angeles Youth Network
National Association of Social Workers
National Association of Social Workers – California Chapter

Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Public Counsel
St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation
Survivors of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts
The Trevor Project
Truth Wins Out
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry California
United Church of Christ

Quite a list, eh? Lawyers, scholars, local government, mental health professionals, churches, and advocacy groups, all on the same side. And here is a list of all those who have filed amicus briefs in support of using therapy to try to turn gay kids straight, and asking that the law be struck down:

National Legal Foundation

While the points of emphasis are a bit different from one brief to the next, those briefs in support of SB1172 make a number of compelling arguments. The restriction on reparative therapy isn’t unique, as California already restricts a variety of health care practices; the legislature made a well-informed decision in rejecting the practice of reparative therapy among minors; reparative therapists can’t claim free speech as a defense here, since many professional restrictions are by their nature restrictions on speech (like the rules requiring therapists to maintain confidentiality for their clients); and on and on. Basically every argument made by those who support reparative therapy gets demolished. They’re interesting reading, and a good preview of the legal arguments on both sides.

The two cases will be heard together in April at the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Obviously, the number of groups on either side of the issue will not decide the case, but the level of consensus here at least says something about just how far on the fringes reparative therapy has become.

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