U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb, a George H. W. Bush appointee, ruled Monday that three California therapists can continue to provide harmful ex-gay therapy to minors while their suit challenging the state’s new ban on the treatment proceeds. Shubb argued that claims that ex-gay ministries can increase young people’s risk for depression or suicide are based on “questionable and scientifically incomplete studies” and that the law, “at minimum, regulates conduct that has an incidental effect on speech.”
Lawyers for the state argued that there are no studies whatsoever that validate ex-gay therapy and that without the law, minors have no protection from the possible harm of the shame-based treatment. The National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Shannon Minter expressed concern about the judge’s exception:
MINTER: We are disappointed by the ruling but very pleased that the temporary delay in implementing this important law applies only to the three plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit. The judge stressed that he was willing to issue the ruling in part because it is temporary and applies only to three individuals. We are confident that as the case progresses, it will be clear to the court that this law is fundamentally no different than many other laws that regulate health care professionals to protect patients. That is especially important in this case because the harms to minors are so serious, including suicide and severe depression. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has rejected these practices and warned that they are not only completely ineffective, but dangerous. California did the right thing by enacting this law, and we are confident the courts will find that it is not only constitutional, but vitally necessary.
Though the ruling only applies to the three plaintiffs in the Pacific Justice Institute’s (PJI) suit, the judge did invite other therapists to petition for similar relief. PJI President Brad Dacus also invited others to join the complaint as co-plaintiffs. In the suit, the plaintiffs make many dubious claims, including that they’d be “required to discriminate” based on sexual orientation, violate their professional ethics, violate their religious freedom, and violate parents’ rights.
A similar suit by NARTH and the Liberty Counsel has not yet been addressed in court.