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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

'Gay conversion' and the First Amendment: Why it is unconstitutional to silence the therapists

Federal judge says harm must be proven first

From the piece:

There's increasing agreement among mental health professionals that gayness can't, and shouldn't, be "cured," and that trying to do so can hurt young people. So the California legislature almost certainly felt itself justified earlier this year in passing S.B. 1172, which outlaws use of "sexual orientation change efforts" ("SOCE") by licensed therapists for patients less than 18 years old.

On Monday, Federal District Judge William Shubb put the new law on hold, on the grounds that it probably violates the First Amendment rights of therapists who want to practice SOCE. Judge Shubb actually made his ruling as narrow as possible: Until a trial can be held to determine whether the law passes First Amendment muster, the state cannot enforce it against the three plaintiffs -- two therapists and another man who, involved in SOCE when he was young, now wishes to become a therapist. But the injunction covers only those three; others have to bring their own lawsuits.

Nonetheless, I imagine many gay-rights advocates are appalled. The bill is designed to prevent harm to the young, and it does so by limiting the behavior of professionals who have state licenses. Why should the First Amendment block such a well-intentioned effort?

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