A federal judge has ruled that three supporters of “ex-gay” therapy may not be sanctioned by the state of California under a new law against the use of so-called conversion therapy on gays, lesbians, and bisexuals under the age of 18.
The law, SB 1172, passed earlier this year and is set to go into effect on January 1. Declaring that “being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming,” and that “sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people,” the law bars mental health professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation of gay minors.
Judge William B. Shubb, a George HW Bush appointee, ruled that three men challenging the law — psychiatrist Anthony Duk, therapist Donald Welch, and prospective counseling student Aaron Bitzer — may not be sanctioned under its provisions until the resolution of a pending court case on their claim that it violates their free speech rights.
In his ruling Judge Shubb declared that SB 1172 is “unlikely” to survive constitutional scrutiny because its underlying premise — that conversion therapy is harmful to minors — is based on “questionable and scientifically incomplete studies.”
Judge Shubb’s ruling currently applies only to the three named plaintiffs, but their lawyer says that they would be willing to add any other mental health practitioner facing sanctions under the law to their suit.