Two federal judges made contradictory rulings this week in cases that seek to overturn California's new law banning controversial gay-to-straight therapy, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The plaintiffs in the cases claim the law violates mental health professionals' free-speech rights.
[U.S. Ditrict Judge William Shubb] wrote in his 38-page ruling that the law, by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles), "likely … bans a mental health provider from expressing his or her viewpoints about homosexuality as part of … treatment."
The judge also found fault with evidence cited by proponents of the law that conversion therapy puts clients at risk of suicide and depression. He wrote that it is "based on questionable and scientifically incomplete studies that may not have included minors."
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller in Sacramento rejected a petition from three other therapists and some of their clients to block enforcement of the law.
Citing the opinions of 10 groups that conversion therapy doesn't work, Mueller ruled that the Legislature and governor had sufficient grounds to enact the ban. A study by a task force of the American Psychological Assn., she noted, found that conversion therapy can "pose critical health risks'' to those who undergo it.
"The findings, recommended practices and opinions of 10 professional associations of mental health experts is no small quantum of information,'' she wrote.
Mueller also said there is no fundamental right to choose a specific mental health treatment the state has reasonably deemed harmful to minors. Besides, she said, parents are free to seek such counseling through religious institutions as long as licensed therapists are not involved.
"The court need not engage in an exercise of legislative mind-reading to find the California Legislature and the state's governor could have had a legitimate reason for enacting SB 1172,'' Mueller wrote.
Liu expects the legislation, which prohibits what he called "sham 'gay therapies,'" to take effect Jan. 1 as scheduled.
"On behalf of the untold number of children who can expect to be spared the psychological abuse imposed by reparative therapy, I’m thrilled that [Tuesday’s] ruling by Judge Mueller will continue to protect our children from serious harm," Liu said in a statement. “As for the ruling [Monday] by Judge Shubb, while I disagree with his decision, he wrote it very narrowly to temporarily delay the law so it applies to only three plaintiffs."
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