(CN) - California's continued ban on gay-conversion therapy effectively hands the government a "powerful tool to silence expression," a dissenting 9th Circuit judge warned Wednesday.
Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain made the remarks as his colleagues refused to hold an en banc rehearing after a three-judge panel with the federal appeals court upheld California's SB 1172.
The law prohibits state-licensed psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors from using sexual-orientation change therapy on patients younger than 18.
O'Scannlain argued Wednesday that the San Francisco-based panel who decided the issue in 2013 had improperly side-stepped the First Amendment by labeling as conduct what was essentially speech.
"In so doing, the panel contravenes recent Supreme Court precedent, ignores established free speech doctrine, misreads our cases, and thus insulates from First Amendment scrutiny California's prohibition - in the guise of a professional regulation - of politically unpopular expression," O'Scannlain wrote.
Empowered by this ruling of our court, government will have a new and powerful tool to silence expression based on a political or moral judgment about the content and purpose of the communications," he added.