On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some private businesses can refuse to provide insurance coverage for birth control to their employees based on the company's religious beliefs, the justices issued another decision that is likely to have major national repercussions.
The court turned down a request for a challenge to a California law that would prohibit "gay conversion" mental health counseling focused on trying to turn gay minors straight. According to the Los Angeles Times, the justices upheld a ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that found the state clearly demonstrated that this kind of conversion therapy for minors under the age of 18 had no scientific merit.
"The Supreme Court has cement shut any possible opening to allow further psychological child abuse in California," said attorney and California State Senator Ted Lieu. "The court’s refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practice the quackery of gay conversion therapy is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles." Lieu, who introduced the 2012 law banning the controversial therapy also noted that eight other states have passed similar measures.
Proponents argued that the ban violated the free speech of the therapists and the patients seeking conversion therapy, an argument the Court found invalid. They also claimed that a patient's sexual orientation and gender identity could be changed by the therapy because those traits are not innate.
Joining a large group of other psychological organizations representing nearly half a million mental health professionals, the American Psychological Association's 2008 "Just the Facts" campaign rejected this notion, writing that "such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure."
The report also noted that the psychological professionals "have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be 'cured.'"
The challenge to the law was brought by the nonprofit Christian group Liberty Counsel, whose founder, Mat Staver, was not pleased with the court's decision. "I am deeply saddened for the families we represent and for the thousands of children that our professional clients counsel, many of whom developed these unwanted attractions because of abuse of a pedophile," Staver said.
"These children have been victimized twice -- first by the likes of [former Penn State coach] Jerry Sandusky, and second by legislators and judges who have essentially barged into their private therapy rooms and told them that they must pursue their unwanted and dangerous same-sex sexual attractions and behavior."
Opponents of conversion therapy, which is also banned in New Jersey, have argued that it is potentially harmful to LGBT youth and could put them at risk of self-harm, depression and possibly suicide.