Lambda Legal Urges Ninth Circuit to Uphold Law Banning ‘Ex-gay Therapy’ for California Minors

“SB 1172 protects children and families from the trauma of so-called ‘ex-gay therapy’ and the trail of fractured lives and ruptured family relationships left in its wake.”

lambdalegalLambda Legal, representing twelve regional and national organizations working with LGBT youth, filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today urging the court to uphold the California law prohibiting state-licensed mental health providers from using dangerous efforts to change sexual orientation – sometimes referred to as “ex-gay therapy” – with minors.

The law, known as SB 1172 and co-sponsored by Lambda Legal, Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Mental Health America of Northern California and Gaylesta, went into effect January 1, 2013. “The organizations we represent in this brief have experienced, observed, and cared for LGBTQ youth suffering the harms of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE),” Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg said. “From community centers to therapists’ organizations to crisis hotlines, they have witnessed first-hand the casualties of baseless promises in the guise of ‘therapy’ to change sexual orientation and gender identity. SB 1172 protects children and families from the trauma of this so-called ‘ex-gay therapy’ and the trail of fractured lives and ruptured families left in its wake.”

On the friend-of-the-court brief, we are representing: Dependency Legal Group of San Diego; Children’s Law Center of California; East Bay Children’s Law Offices; Gaylesta; Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY); The LGBTQ-Affirmative Therapist Guild of Utah; Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center; Los Angeles Youth Network (LAYN); Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Public Counsel; The Trevor Project; and Truth Wins Out.

Two separate lawsuits were filed challenging the law: Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, and the judges in these two cases issued conflicting rulings. In Pickup, the U.S. District Court judge refused to delay enforcement of the law, while in Welch a different U.S. District Court judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion seeking a delay in implementation. The plaintiffs appealed the Pickup ruling to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, as did the defendants – California Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials – in the Welch case. It is expected the appeals in both cases will be combined.

Efforts to change a young person’s sexual orientation pose critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. For minors, who are often subjected to these practices at the insistence of parents who don’t know or don’t believe that the efforts are harmful, the risks of long-term mental and physical health consequences are particularly severe. In addition, when these efforts “fail,” many LGBTQ children are kicked out of their homes.

“I had great parents, but lost my relationship with them because they thought there was a cure that I could pursue that I was stubbornly refusing to accept,” states one of the individuals subjected to SOCE as a youth who is quoted in the brief. “I still battle depression and anxiety, and I think it really stems back to that. I don’t think that bogus pseudoscience should be available, because it gives people who want to believe a different reality is possible the ability to force [SOCE]. It allows parents who are wishing for a different scenario to damage their children. They could actually move forward and develop a strong bond with their kids, and that time is lost.”

The cases are Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown. Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg and Western Regional Office Staff Attorney Shelbi Day are authoring the brief, assisted by cooperating attorneys at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.