Lawsuits filed over California's ban on gay conversion therapy

Fri. October 5, 2012 4:39 PM by News Staff

Sacramento, CA - Two lawsuits have been filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California attempting to block a new law (SB 1172) that bans any counseling to diminish, eliminate, or manage same-sex sexual attractions.

Liberty Counsel, a conservative and anti-gay not-for-profit organization, and a student, Aaron Blitzer, who is studying to be a therapist in that field, filed separate suits this week. Blitzer was joined in his suit by two therapists. Liberty Counsel represents several parents and their children who are receiving and benefiting from such counseling, several licensed counselors, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), and the American Association for Christian Counselors (AACC), an organization with about 50,000 professional counseling members.

Both suits allege that the law banning the therapy intrudes on First Amendment protections of free speech, privacy and freedom of religion. Blitzer also said the law would prevent him from pursuing his career.

"This law places the state between the client and the counselor," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "This law intrudes on a client's fundamental right of self-determination to seek counseling that aligns with his/her religious and moral values. This law forces counselors to overrule the will of their clients who choose to prioritize their religious or moral values above unwanted same-sex sexual attraction," said Staver.

"This law forces clients to receive and counselors to provide only one viewpoint on the subject of same-sex attractions, even when the client does not want to act on those attractions. This law even forbids counselors from referring clients to someone of their choice. For the state to assume that it knows best what kind of counseling individuals should receive is the height of hubris and ignorance," said Staver.

California state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), the bill's sponsor said the therapy amounts to "psychological child abuse."

"I read the lawsuit and, as a matter of fiction, it is a good read," Lieu said in a statement. "But from any reasonable legal standard, the lawsuit is frivolous. Under the plaintiffs' argument, the First Amendment would shield therapists and psychiatrists from medical malpractice and psychological abuse claims simply because they use speech in practicing their medicine. That is a novel and frivolous view of the First Amendment."

"Of all the freedom-killing bills we have seen in our legislature the last several years, this is among the worst," said Brad Dacus president of Pacific Justice Institute (PJI). "This outrageous bill makes no exceptions for young victims of sexual abuse who are plagued with unwanted same-sex attraction, nor does it respect the consciences of mental health professionals who work in a church. We are filing suit to defend families, children, and religious freedom. This unprecedented bill is outrageously unconstitutional."

PJI, which represents Blitzer will seek an injunction to prevent implementation of the law on Jan. 1.