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California ban on conversion therapy for gay teens upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

Conversion therapy for gay and lesbian teenagers became infamous after the 2007 “South Park” episode “Cartman Sucks.” Butters Stotch’s parents thought he was “bi-curious” and sent to him a pray-the-gay-away camp, where several youth committed suicide after being told they were sexually confused. Photo: Comedy Central.

WASHINGTON — A California law banning a barbaric, wacko and discredited therapy that tries to convert gay and lesbian teenages to heterosexual and was lampooned on “South Park” does not violate the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

SUPREME COURT RULING

On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the California ban — the first of its kind in the nation that outlaws “conversion therapy” for minors. That ruling keeps in place a lower federal court ruling that upheld the state law, which was passed in 2012.

The Supreme Court justices did not comment in refusing to hear the appeal.

It was the second time the Supreme Court has turned away a challenge to the California law, SB 1172.

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‘PRAY THE GAY AWAY’

The therapy is also called “pray the gay away” and “ex-gay conversion therapy.”

It became infamous after the 2007 “South Park” episode “Cartman Sucks.” Butters Stotch’s parents thought he was “bi-curious” and sent to him a pray-the-gay-away camp, where several youth committed suicide after being told they were sexually confused.

The appeal challenging the ban was filed by a Christian minister in San Diego and others, who argued that the law violated their rights to religious freedom.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco had previously upheld the California law as constitutional.

APPEALS COURT RULING

In August 2013, the Court of Appeals unanimously concluded that the ban did not violate the free speech rights of therapists and was within the state’s authority to outlaw medical or mental health practices it considers harmful to minors. The court also rejected the argument the law interferes with parents’ rights to seek such counseling for their children.

The California law, which was authored by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-33), who was then a state senator from Torrance, says 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.

A California law banning a barbaric, wacko and discredited therapy that tries to convert gay and lesbian teenages to heterosexual and was lampooned on “South Park” does not violate the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. Photo: Comedy Central.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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