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Judge blocks ban on gay 'conversion' therapy

December 3, 2012 | 11:27 pm

A federal judge on Monday blocked California from enforcing its new ban on therapy that seeks to change the sexual orientation of minors from gay to straight.

U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled that the new law, SB 1172, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year, may inhibit the 1st Amendment rights of therapists who oppose homosexuality. The judge signed a temporary injunction that prohibits the state from enforcing the ban, the first of its kind in the nation, against the three plaintiffs in the suit pending trial.

The plaintiffs are represented by the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, which expressed confidence that the injunction could also apply to other therapists who choose to be added as plaintiffs.

Shubb wrote in his 38-page ruling that the new law, by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) “likely… bans a mental health provider from expressing his or her viewpoints about homosexuality as part of…treatment.”

The judge also found fault with the evidence cited by proponents of the law that conversion therapy puts patients at risk of suicide. He wrote in his ruling that it is “based on questionable and scientifically incomplete studies that may not have included minors.”

The plaintiffs in the case include a licensed marriage therapist and ordained minister, a psychiatrist and a former conversion therapy patient who is studying to practice the therapy on others.

"This victory sends a clear signal to all those who feel they can stifle religious freedom, free speech, and the rights of parents without being contested," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute .

The ban on conversion therapy was one of the signature laws passed in the last legislative session. Its approval followed a fierce lobbying campaign by gay-rights groups. The law had been set to take effect in January.

When Brown signed SB 1172, he said in a statement, "these practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."

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-- Evan Halper in Sacramento

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