Case challenging gay-conversion therapy ban won’t be heard by SCOTUS

U.S. Supreme Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a Christian minister’s challenge to a California law banning gay gay-conversion therapy for changing the sexual orientation of minors, Reuters reports.

The 2012 statute noted that homosexuality is not a disease and that gay conversion therapy is harmful. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that was on appeal to the Supreme Court, Welch v. Brown (PDF), had rejected the claim by Dr. Donald Welch that the law amounts to state interference with religion. The opinion noted that the statute “regulates conduct only within the confines of the counselor-client relationship.”

Initially, Welch and two others sued claiming that the law violated free speech in Pickup v. Brown (PDF), and the Supreme Court declined to take that case when an appeals court rejected the arguments.

The 9th Circuit said in 2013 that the law “bans a form of treatment for minors; it does nothing to prevent licensed therapists from discussing the pros and cons of [sexual-orientation change therapy] with their patients.”

Welch then retooled for the filing and based the claim on religious grounds.

Welch is an ordained minister and a licensed family therapist with the evangelical Skyline Wesleyan Church near San Diego. The church believes sex should take place only in a marriage between a man and a woman.

Similar laws against gay conversion have passed in the District of Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. A challenge to the New Jersey law was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2015.

The three-judge panel for the U.S. 9th Circuit—Alex Kozinski, Susan P. Graber and Morgan B. Christen—wrote that, “The law regulates the conduct of state-licensed mental health providers only; the conduct of all other persons, such as religious leaders not acting as state-licensed mental health providers, is unaffected.

“And, of course, the law leaves open many alternative paths. Minors who seek to change their sexual orientation—for religious or secular reasons—are free to do so on their own and with the help of friends, family, and religious leaders.”

See also: (2015): “Gay ‘conversion therapy’ for minors opposed by ABA House leaders”

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