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Updated Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 10:31 PM

Judge refuses to block ban on sexual-orientation 'conversion' therapy

By Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The day after a federal judge cast doubt on a new California law banning sexual-orientation therapy for minors, a second judge issued a ruling upholding it.

According to Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the California attorney general, the ban on sexual-orientation therapy will take effect Jan. 1 as scheduled for everyone except two therapists and an aspiring therapist who sued to keep the ban from taking effect.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled that the law may inhibit the First Amendment rights of therapists who oppose homosexuality. He issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state from enforcing the ban, the first of its kind in the nation, against the three plaintiffs pending a broader ruling on its merits.

"The reality is those three individuals are not subject to the law, so (the initial ruling) is very narrow," Gledhill said.

In Tuesday's ruling, in a case brought by opponents asserting that the law violates free speech, religious and parental rights, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller said the Legislature and governor had enough grounds to enact such a law, given that multiple mental-health groups, including the American Psychological Association, have discredited the therapy.

She said opponents who have sued in her Sacramento court to overturn it were unlikely to prove the ban on the therapy unfairly tramples on their civil rights.

The opponents argued that the law would make them liable for discipline if they merely recommended the therapy to patients or discuss it with them. Mueller issued her decision in a lawsuit filed by four counselors, two families, a professional organization for practitioners and a Christian therapists group.

Shubb handed down a somewhat competing ruling in a similar, but separate lawsuit.

Saying he found the First Amendment issues presented by the ban to be compelling, Shubb late Monday ordered the state to temporarily exempt three people named in the case before him — two mental-health providers and a former patient who is studying to practice sexual- orientation change therapy.

The judge said during a hearing earlier Monday that he would have considered keeping the law from taking effect for all licensed therapists, but that the case before him had not been filed as a class action that could be applied to unnamed plaintiffs.

Sen. Ted Lieu, who sponsored the law, said Tuesday that because Shubb limited the scope of his decision, Mueller ruling means the law may be applied statewide at the beginning of the new year — except for the three individuals mentioned.

Mathew Staver, chairman of the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel, appealed Mueller's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and said he would seek an emergency injunction to keep the law on hold until its constitutionality is determined.

The law, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, states that therapists and counselors who use "sexual orientation change efforts" on clients under 18 would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards.


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