Group sues over California’s new ban on ex-gay therapy

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Jerry-Brown

California Gov. Jerry Brown. - PHOTO: provided/gov.ca.gov

A Christian legal group has filed a lawsuit to overturn a first-of-its-kind California law that prohibits licensed mental health professionals from practicing therapies aimed at making LGB teenagers straight.

The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Institute is challenging the law signed on Sept. 29 by Gov. Jerry Brown in U.S. District Court.

The institute filed the lawsuit on behalf of a psychiatrist and a marriage and family therapist who is also a church pastor. It also names as a plaintiff Aaron Bitzer, a man who says he has benefited from the “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy.

The lawsuit claims the law, set to take effect on Jan. 1, violates First Amendment and equal protection rights.

"Of all the freedom-killing bills we have seen in our Legislature the last several years, this is among the worst," stated Brad Dacus, president of PJI. "This outrageous bill makes no exceptions for young victims of sexual abuse who are plagued with unwanted same-sex attraction, nor does it respect the consciences of mental health professionals who work in a church. We are filing suit to defend families, children and religious freedom. This unprecedented bill is outrageously unconstitutional."

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

A coalition of LGBT civil rights groups pushed for passage, along with health professionals.

“We have seen firsthand the terrible, lasting damage caused by these deadly practices,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Kate Kendall. “This law provides a powerful tool to make sure that therapists who abuse LGBT youth can be held legally accountable.”

She added, “And just as important, it sends a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBT youth and their families—telling them loud and clear that the state of California will not stand by while state-licensed therapists abuse their power to harm LGBT youth and propagate the deadly lie that sexual orientation is an illness or disorder that can be ‘cured.’"

State Sen. Ted Lieu, who sponsored the bill, said, "No one should stand idly by while children are being psychological abused, and anyone who forces a child to try to change their sexual orientation must understand this is unacceptable."