Gay Conversion Therapy Bill Update: Institute Files Suit To Block It

State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) speaks at a Senate campaign event with Gov. Jerry Brown to his right in February of 2011. The bill enforcing a ban on gay conversion therapy was sponsored by Lieu. (Neon Tommy/Creative Commons)

The Pacific Justice Institute, a legal group that supports conservative religious causes, filed a civil suit on Monday to block California from enforcing the ban on gay conversion therapy for minors that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Sunday.

The law, the first of its kind in the nation, was scheduled to take effect January 1. It would bar state-licensed therapists from attempting to change gender expression, or eliminate sexual or romantic same-sex attractions in persons under 18 years of age. It had the support of various LGBT rights groups and major mental health associations. The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) opposed the bill. NARTH, whose members include therapists who believe sexual orientation can be changed, had said it planned to seek a temporary injunction against the law.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). “I am deeply honored Gov. Brown signed SB 1172,” Lieu said in an interview with NBC News. “The bill is necessary because children were being psychologically abused by reparative therapists who would try to change the child’s sexual orientation. An entire house of medicine has rejected gay conversion therapy. Not only does it not work but it is harmful. Patients who go through this have gone through guilt and shame, and some have committed suicide.”

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, said the law “… is an outrageous violation of the civil rights of youth, of parents and of licensed counselors, including clergy who are licensed counselors. What we’re advocating is for all to have the freedom and liberty to seek the counseling that meets their needs.”

The Florida-based Liberty Counsel, another religious advocacy group, has said is also planning on filing suit against the law on behalf of two counselors and two parents with children currently undergoing the therapy.