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Judge to Assess Harm Gay ‘Converters’ Faced

SACRAMENTO (CN) - Mental health providers will get a chance to show how California's ban on using gay conversion therapy on children has violated their constitutional rights, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

California lawmakers passed SB 1172 in 2012, prohibiting state-licensed psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors from using sexual-orientation change and other "reparative" methods on patients younger than 18.

Four California-licensed mental health providers, three organizations that support the practice and two families sued in 2012 to stop implementation of the law.

A Ninth Circuit panel last year upheld U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller's denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction on free speech grounds and reversed a separate decision in which U.S. District Judge William Shubb granted relief to other plaintiffs.

The Ninth Circuit found the law did not violate free speech rights and that the state has the right to regulate the conduct of state-licensed therapists and psychiatrists. It rejected the argument that the law interferes with parents' rights to seek such counseling for their children.

After that ruling, plaintiffs - including David Pickup, Christopher Rosik, Ph.D. and the American Association of Christian Counselors - said they believe their "as-applied" challenge to the law under the First and 14th Amendments were still viable.

They claim the application of the law violates therapists' right to free speech and the children's right to receive information, and parents' and minors' right to free exercise of religion.

Mueller ruled that their claims as stated are not sufficient, especially given that they predate the law's enactment.

The complaint does not "describe with any particularity how the statue will be enforced against plaintiffs, or that plaintiffs have, since the statute's enactment, experienced a genuine threat of imminent prosecution. The court can only speculate that plaintiffs intend to continue their practices, violate the statute, and have the statute enforced against them," Mueller wrote. She gave them 21 days to file an amended complaint.

Attorneys for both sides did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

So-called conversion therapy, used only on homosexuals, has also been banned in New Jersey, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and most recently Illinois.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill outlawing the practice last month. The law, which will take effect Jan. 1, includes language likening conversion therapy to consumer fraud, and prohibits advertising conversion therapy services in a manner that represents homosexuality as a disorder or illness.

President Barack Obama in April called for a nationwide ban on conversion therapy for gay and transgender youth in response to a White House petition brought after the suicide of transgender Ohio teen Leelah Alcorn.

Alcorn walked in front of a tractor-trailer in December after writing a suicide note saying that religious therapists had tried to convert her back to being a boy.

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