Implementation of California’s Gay Cure Ban Delayed Until Hearing
Marea Murray, a social worker in San Francisco, sobbed uncontrollably when she learned that the governor of California had signed SB 1172 into law. Murray counsels clients of all genders and orientations on sexuality concerns and like a number of other mental health professionals, she has come to know people psychologically abused having undergone treatments thought to cure homosexuality. That is one of the many reasons why she worked through Gaylesta, an LGBT Psychotherapy Association, to mobilize supporters for the bill.
The bill specifically sought to prohibit professionals from using techniques to change gender expressions, gender identities, and/or sexual orientation for patients under eighteen.
After SB 1172 was approved, two lawsuits were brought against California, one filed by an ex-gay Aaron Bitzer, who is studying to be an ex-gay therapist. The therapist-in-training claimed the ban not only infringed on his rights to freedom of speech and religion, but also the ban prevented him from pursuing his profession. His lawsuit, led by Christian legal group Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), argued that "the law ignores young people who have same-sex attractions as a result of being victims of sexual abuse" and that lack of access to treatment will lead to irreparable harm.
Senator Ted Lieu, who introduced the bill, read the suit and said it was frivolous.
PJI expected that by appealing, the implementation of the law would be stopped: the opposite happened...well, sort of.
On December 5, Federal District Judge Kimberly Mueller found that the ban did not infringe on First Amendment rights of ex-gay counselors to provide sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for minors. Being that ex-gay counselors are legally allowed to practice SOCEs, using a religious approach, under the bill. The ban applies to mental health providers and not faith-based providers or unlicensed providers.
In a separate lawsuit, led by Liberty Counsel, Federal District Judge William Shubb found that the ban may infringe on First Amendment rights of ex-gay counselors and signed an injunction on December 3, to block the enforcement of the ban for the three plaintiffs who filed the suit: Aaron Bitzer, Donald Welch and Anthony Duk. Since Judge Mueller did not block the ban and Judge Shubb's decision only applied to the three named plaintiffs, the ban was scheduled to go into effect on January 1.
After Judge Mueller's decision, PJI filed a motion to delay the law from taking effect and wrote, "if no injunction is issued, in less than two weeks approximately sixty percent of the one hundred and thirty-five clients that Plaintiff Joseph Nicolosi counsels every week, will have the status quo of their ongoing, voluntary, beneficial, therapeutic relationship abruptly halted. Instead of continuing in their relationship with Dr. Nicolosi, these minors will have to be told that they can no longer work toward their therapeutic goals."
On December 21, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to temporarily delay the ban until further review of its constitutionality.
In a phone interview, Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), said that a hearing had been scheduled for April 15 in San Francisco to review Judge Mueller’s decision.
"I’ve been at NCLR for twenty years. My first case was a young woman who had been put into a residential treatment center by her mother because she identified as a lesbian. It was terrible to learn what she had been through. She was extremely damaged and her relationship with her mother was destroyed."
Minter continued, "I’ve seen it happen over and over again. These young people are so vulnerable. When you have a therapist telling you that being gay or lesbian is abnormal, that you need to change, in order to be healthy and happy -- they try to change. And the reality is that you can’t change. This is a core aspect of a person’s identity. That’s why mental health organizations are warning people against this."
Although ex-gay counselors haven’t been able to provide scientific evidence that conversion therapy is effective, research does suggest that lack of support experienced by LGBT youth leads to higher rates of substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, emotional distress, and suicide attempts.
After being placed in conversion therapy by his parents, Ryan Kendall, a student at Columbia University said, "it took me a decade to rebuild my life."
"I reached the point when I realized my sexuality was something that was not going to take care of itself, when I went off to college," echoed Daniel Gonzales, an architect in Long Beach. "At that point I was still believing the two biggest lies that drive people into ex-gay therapy: One, that you cannot be gay and Christian. Two, that being gay is not a fulfilling way to live your life. And if anyone believes that, then they will believe anything that an ex-gay group will tell them."
Both Kendall and Gonzales were patients of Joseph Nicolosi, one of the founders of National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality.
In response to the bill potentially going into effect, Bryan Kimble, a Baptist preacher, posted on his Facebook page, "this is why Christians should have never surrendered their linguistics and holiness."
"On April 15, what I hope will happen is that the Ninth Circuit Panel will uphold Judge Mueller’s decision that the state had plenty of justification to pass this law," said Minter.