A federal judge has granted a temporary injunction against a California law that bans mental health professionals from using reparative therapy as a means of helping gay minors reduce or eliminate their same-sex attraction.
"Because the court finds that SB 1172 is subject to strict scrutiny and is unlikely to satisfy this standard, the court finds that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their . . . claims based on violations of their rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment," wrote U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb in his 38-page ruling on Monday.
At this time, the preliminary injunction applies only to the case's three plaintiffs: Donald Welch, a minister and licensed marriage and family therapist; Anthony Duk, a Catholic medical doctor and psychiatrist; and Aaron Bitzer, a man who has struggled with same-sex attraction and is working toward becoming a therapist.
"In order for government to infringe in any way upon a person's constitutional rights – in this case free speech rights pursuant to the First Amendment – the government has a burden to show they have a compelling state interest to do so, and that their infringement is the least restrictive means to furthering that interest," Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, the organization representing the plaintiffs in the case, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
"The judge painstakingly went through all of the information that was provided and had an unusually long and thorough time for oral arguments before coming down with his decision ... concluding that the government has not satisfied that compelling state interest requirement."
Senate Bill 1172, which was signed into law by Calif. Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 29, will make it illegal for mental health providers to use sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on patients under the age of 18. These types of efforts "shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject a mental health provider to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider," the law, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, states.
While Monday's court decision will be viewed as a setback by those who support the law, some are still certain the ban will ultimately be allowed to stay.
"We are disappointed by the ruling but very pleased that the temporary delay in implementing this important law applies only to the three plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit," Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. "The judge stressed that he was willing to issue the ruling in part because it is temporary and applies only to three individuals. We are confident that as the case progresses, it will be clear to the court that this law is fundamentally no different than many other laws that regulate health care professionals to protect patients."
Minter also calls reparative therapy "dangerous," and says the law is "vitally necessary" to protecting the mental health of young, gay individuals. Dacus, on the other hand, believes the law in and of itself is harmful.
"We at PJI are ready to fight this battle all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary," said Dacus in a statement on Monday. "This will be a long enduring battle with tremendous consequences for generations to come. We are grateful to those who are willing to support us in this critical time to preserve our freedoms and protect our children."