It remains unclear what consequences the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision might have for LGBT equality, but the Supreme Court did take one other action Monday that is actually a small win for gay rights. Before issuing the day’s two big decisions, the Court refused to grant cert to a case challenging California’s ban on ex-gay therapy for minors, leaving the ban in place.
California was the first state to pass a law protecting minors from being subjected to therapies that attempt to de-gay their sexual orientations in 2012. Conservative groups promptly sued on behalf of ex-gay therapists who felt the ban infringed on their freedom of speech with clients. After two conflicting lower court rulings, the Ninth Circuit ruled last summer that the ban is constitutional. The conservative groups appealed to the Supreme Court, but its decision not to hear it means that the cases are over and the ban remains in place.
Mat Staver, head of the Liberty Counsel, which represents some of the ex-gay therapists who sued, told BarbWire that he is “deeply saddened” for the children who will be denied treatment, “many of whom,” he claimed, “developed these unwanted attractions because of abuse of a pedophile.” He went on to claim that they have now been “victimized twice” — “first by the likes of Jerry Sandusky” and now by lawmakers and judges protecting their “unwanted and dangerous same-sex sexual attractions and behavior.”
Staver’s repeated insistence that pedophilia — specifically with references to convicted serial child molester Jerry Sandusky — causes homosexuality has proven even too controversial for other anti-LGBT groups like Focus on the Family. Staver has also suggested that “the law allows homosexuals to ‘entrap’ and ‘groom’ children into the homosexual lifestyle.”
In contrast, the American Psychology Association has condemned ex-gay therapy as ineffective because sexual orientation cannot be manipulated. Survivors of the treatment have testified to the mental health harms they experienced when subjecting themselves to the shame-based counseling.
Though the Court’s decision leaves California’s ban in place, it’s not the last legal challenge bans on ex-gay therapy will face. New Jersey also passed such a ban last year, and the Liberty Counsel is also challenging that ban on behalf of the ex-gay therapists professional organization NARTH. A district court judge ruled in November that the ban was constitutional and the Liberty Counsel has appealed to the Third Circuit. If it rules differently than the Ninth Circuit did, it could force the Supreme Court to mitigate the conflicting decisions and weigh in on the merits of ex-gay therapy in the future.