Supreme Court Refuses California’s Gay Reparative Therapy Appeal

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  May 2, 2017   

Dr. Nicolosi: "Homosexual behavior is always prompted by an inner sense of emptiness"

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WASHINGTON ( - The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to hear an appeal of California's homosexual reparative therapy ban, pejoratively referred to by critics as "gay conversion therapy."

The announcement by the High Court on Monday leaves intact California's 2012 law that barred state-licensed mental health counselors, social workers and psychologists from offering therapy to help diminish or eradicate same-sex attraction in minors. In turning away the case, the justices let stand a lower court decision, which ruled the law does not violate free exercise of religion nor affect the activities of clergy members.

This marks the second time the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal of California's law. The Supreme Court turned away a previous challenge to this law in 2014, which claimed the ban was a violation of free speech.

The current challenge stems from last year's ruling on Welch v. Brown filed by Donald Welch, an evangelical minister and a licensed therapist. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Welch's claim that the ban violates his free exercise of religion.

California officials claim reparative therapy involves methods that range from counseling and hypnosis to aversion techniques that can include shock therapy — a rare occurrence, but often touted by critics of reparative therapy. Such treatment is said to be rooted in the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness, which the state says has been discredited for decades. They also hold that all forms of reparative therapy are harmful to the individual — a position disproven by a current study showing reparative therapy improves mental, emotional and psychological health across the board.

Reparative therapy for minors is outlawed in New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and the District of Columbia. In 2015, the High Court turned away a challenge to New Jersey's law involving such therapy.

The late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a pioneer in gay reparative therapy, had a track record of helping many same-sex attracted individuals diminish or eradicate unwanted same-sex desires. He had marked success in assisting his patients to lead a happy and healthy life after leaving a homosexual lifestyle. Nicolosi was licensed in California and practiced there. He was president of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), that had the goal of helping same-sex attracted patients overcome their unwanted homosexual desires.

NARTH's website affirms: "Dr. Joseph Nicolosi has been successfully helping people all over the world understand these issues, the root causes and most importantly the solutions available. Reparative therapy helps those who wish to reduce their unwanted homosexual attractions and explore their heterosexual potential."

At a conference, Nicolosi revealed that homosexuality is not a "sexual problem" but rather a problem of "gender identity." He added, "Homosexuality is not about sex. It is about a person's sense of himself, about his relationships, how he forms and establishes relationships, his self-identity, his self-image, personal shame, his ability to sustain intimacy. Homosexual behavior is always prompted by an inner sense of emptiness."

Before he died, Nicolosi was working on a thesis to prove that reparative therapy isn't harmful, as gay activists claim. In 2016, he presented the results of his study, which showed this therapy reduced stress and contributed to the emotional and physical well-being of nearly 100 clients.

"Findings from preliminary data collected over a 12-month period indicated statistically significant reductions in distress and improvements in well-being, significant movement toward heterosexual identity, and significant increases in heterosexual thoughts and desires with accompanying significant decreases in homosexual thoughts and desires," he concluded.



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