Supreme Court refuses reparative therapy case, allowing California ban to take effect

By derivative work: Producer (talk) JudgesTools.JPG: User:Avjoska (JudgesTools.JPG) [CC-BY-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia CommonsOther states are now more likely to follow suit.

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear arguments in the court cases challenging California’s ban on reparative therapy for minors. The decision will allow the ban to take effect, and likely will make it easier for other states considering similar bans to enact them.

The California law, drafted as Senate Bill 1172 in 2012, subjects therapists to discipline against their licenses if they attempt to change the sexual orientation of a minor through therapy. Therapies designed to change sexual orientation, which are commonly referred to as reparative therapy, conversion therapy, ex-gay therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), are discouraged by every major mental health professional association in the US. The American Psychological Association’s report on such therapies suggests they are ineffective and potentially dangerous, and urges particular caution for minors.

Since California passed its ban, New Jersey passed a similar law, which is also currently tied up in court. Given that the arguments in that case closely parallel those made in the California cases, the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the issue after the Ninth Circuit allowed the California law to stand would suggest that New Jersey’s law will probably also survive. New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois are among the states that have considered similar bans, though some in those states were understandably hesitant to move forward until they knew whether California’s law would be allowed to take effect.

Thanks to the court decision, reparative therapies are now one step closer to being “relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” as Governor Jerry Brown said almost two years ago as he signed the bill into law.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I was heavily involved in SB1172 through my role as Legislative and Advocacy Committee Chair for the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. AAMFT-CA supported the bill and cosigned this amicus brief asking the courts to let it stand. Your comments are welcome. You can post them in the comments below, by email to ben[at]bencaldwell[dot]com, or on my Twitter feed.