Lawyers and counselors endorsing reparative therapy, which has helped patients overcome same-sex attraction, asked a federal court Friday to block the California law banning the treatment for minors.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller will hear arguments on whether she should grant an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect. The California legislature was passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October and begins Jan. 1.
Under the new legislation, family counselors and psychiatrists who use "sexual orientation change efforts" on a client under 18 would be considered engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to state licensing discipline.
If an injunction is granted, the temporary delay would allow underage clients to continue their therapy and give supporters time to overturn the law based on the argument that it violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.
In a petition by lawyers from Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group, they argued families and therapists "will be immediately and irreparably harmed by being forced to discontinue ongoing therapy in violation of their constitutional rights, by being denied the ability to direct the upbringing of their children, and by being compelled to violate their ethical obligations in order to obey the law."
But attorneys for the state argue that reparative therapy has been discredited by the medical community and "can and has caused great psychological pain in young people who are already struggling with their sexuality and the stigma of being gay."
"An injunction would expose some of society's most vulnerable members to treatment that the state and every major mental health organization in the country have condemned as an outmoded, ineffective, and potentially dangerous relic from an era when homosexuality was pathologized and criminalized," Attorney General Kamala Harris wrote.
Judge Mueller is not expected to make a ruling at the hearing, but to issue a written decision at a later date.