SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A federal court of appeals is upholding a ban that forbids conversion of minors seeking relief from their same-sex attraction or gender confusion.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, August 23, that banning licensed practitioners of gay conversion therapy, who also may be pastors, isn't a violation of their right to religious freedom.
Circuit Judge Susan Graber writing for the majority, said, "The law regulates the conduct of state-licensed mental health providers only; the conduct of all other persons, such as religious leaders not acting as state-licensed mental health providers, is unaffected."
Graber was referring to Senate Bill 1172 (SB1172), which the California legislature passed in 2012. This law prohibits mental health providers from engaging in "sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18."
"Sexual orientation change efforts" are defined in the law as seeking "to change an individual's sexual orientation," including same-sex attraction. The law also bans "efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions," known clinically as "gender dysphoria."
The appellate judge acknowledged that a law specifically targeting a person's religious motivation would raise a constitutional red flag. But Graber claims this wasn't the case here. "The evidence falls far short of demonstrating that the primary intended effect of SB1172 was to inhibit religion."
Pacific Justice Institute president Brad Dacus, representing one of the plaintiffs, voiced his concern. "This law we challenged makes it impossible for a minor under 18, who is personally struggling with sexual orientation or gender identity, from being able to get the counseling they want in accordance with their personal beliefs, convictions and goals."
Conversion therapy for minors seeking relief from either same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is currently outlawed in Oregon, California, Vermont, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and Illinois.
Illinois goes so far as banning even pastors from providing conversion therapy. This law is currently being challenged by a group of pastors in the state as a violation of their first amendment rights.