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Appeals Court Upholds Calif. Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy for LGBT Youth

Appeals Court Upholds Calif. Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy for LGBT Youth

A federal appeals court has allowed to let stand an earlier decision upholding the legality of a recently passed California law banning conversion therapy for LGBT youth.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday that California's Senate Bill 1172 does not infringe on the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs.

The en banc Ninth Circuit denied the rehearing, arguing that SB 1172 "does not violate the free speech rights of practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents' fundamental rights."

"The panel held that Senate Bill 1172 regulates professional conduct, not speech, and therefore was subject only to a rational basis review," continued the Ninth Circuit.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement that the "decision affirms that California can protect young people and their families from being deceived and harmed by unethical therapists who falsely claim they can change a person's sexual orientation."

"These practices have no scientific basis and can cause serious, lasting harms that devastate families and destroy young lives," added Minter.

"The legislature did the right thing by enacting this protective law, and the ruling today strongly confirms that other states should follow California's example and adopt similar laws."

Introduced by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Sacramento) in 2012, SB 1172 banned sexual orientation change therapy for minors in the state of California.

The bill passed the California State Senate in June 2012 by a vote of 23 to 13 and the state's General Assembly in August 2012 by a vote of 51 to 22.

Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1172 into law in late 2012, making California the first state in the United States to ban conversion therapy for gay youth.

Soon after Brown signed the bill, the Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against SB 1172 and it was brought before a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit.

The panel upheld the conversion therapy ban in a decision rendered last August that the Liberty Counsel opted to appeal.

Wednesday's decision to not rehear the suit was not unanimous, as three Ninth Circuit justices joined a dissent written by Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain.

"The State of California, in the statute at issue here, has prohibited licensed professionals from saying certain words to their clients. By labeling such speech as 'conduct,' the panel's opinion has entirely exempted such regulation from the First Amendment," wrote O'Scannlain.

"In so doing, the panel contravenes recent Supreme Court precedent, ignores established free speech doctrine, misreads our cases, and thus insulates from First Amendment scrutiny California's prohibition--in the guise of a professional regulation--of politically unpopular expression."

The Liberty Counsel, which oversaw the lawsuit, released a statement Thursday where it expressed an intention to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

"Please pray as we continue fighting to protect these young people from homosexual activists and tyrannical politicians," stated the Liberty Counsel.

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