Court Refuses Case Against 'Gay Conversion' Therapy Ban

| by Simone Stover

The Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge regarding California's law banning "gay conversion" therapy.

Gay conversion therapy exists due to the belief that homosexuality is a mental disorder and aims to change an individual's sexual orientation through several different techniques, reports Reuters. Such techniques can include counseling or hypnosis, but can also include methods such as inducing pain or electric shocks in response to same-sex images. 

Back in 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that the state of California had taken steps to prohibit the practice from being administered to minors by state-licensed professionals. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation into law, making it the first of its kind within the country.

"This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide,'' Brown said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. "These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."

On May 1, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case which asserted that the ban on gay conversion therapy violates religious rights, reports Reuters. The lead plaintiff of the case was Donald Welch, who oversees counseling at an evangelical church in the San Diego area. Welch was joined by a Catholic psychiatrist and a man who underwent the therapy process and now desires to practice it on others. 

Together, the three had sued the state of California on the basis that the law is unconstitutional and violates free speech rights. Their initial challenge failed, after which they tried to claim that the ban violates the ability to freely exercise religion. In October of 2016, their claims were struck down by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case lets the decision of the appeals court stand. This is not the first time that the Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to this law. According to Reuters, the Court has rejected a total of two challenges during the last three years. 

Following the Court's decision, some expressed their discontent with the outcome. 

"We are deeply disappointed by today’s announcement, because it means young people in California and elsewhere will not be able to get the professional help they seek, due to political correctness,” said Brad Bacus, the president of Pacific Justice Institute, the organization that represented Welch, according to PBS. 

The American Psychiatric Association has not classified homosexuality as a mental illness since 1987, according to PBS. In the years following California's initial ban of the practice in 2012, other states have followed suit. Reuters reports that New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and the District of Columbia have similar laws in place. In addition, Democratic lawmakers from California introduced a new bill -- called the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act -- in April, which seeks to ban the use of the practice nationwide, reports PBS.   

Sources: Reuters, PBS, Los Angeles Times / Photo credit: D. A. Lewis/Flickr

Was the Supreme Court right to decline hearing the case?
Yes - 0%
Yes - 0%