Supreme Court Won't Weigh In on Gay 'Cure' Bans for Minors

Dramatic television re-enactment of what's happening in high school locker rooms all across America this very minute."Glee"California passed a law in 2012 that banned the use of "reparative therapies" on gay youths. That is to say the state made it against the law for mental health professionals to attempt to cure homosexuality for anybody under the age of 18. They were the first state to do so and other states have followed.

The law was subsequently challenged on First Amendment grounds and defended by the state delcaring its authority to regulate the activities of the mental health profession. Those defending the right to engage in reparative therapies lost their challenges and had asked the Supreme Court to take up the issue. Today the Supreme Court turned them away, leaving intact California's ban. From the Associated Press:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that therapies designed to change sexual orientation for those under the age of 18 were outside the scientific mainstream and have been disavowed by most major medical groups as unproven and potentially dangerous.

"The Supreme Court has cement shut any possible opening to allow further psychological child abuse in California," state Sen. Ted Lieu, the law's sponsor, said Monday. "The Court's refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practice the quackery of gay conversion therapy is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles."

The law says professional therapists and counselors who use treatments designed to eliminate or reduce same-sex attractions in their patients would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards. It does not cover the actions of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs.

As a gay man of a certain age, I have heard any number of horror stories from men and women who have been exposed to this kind of "treatment," often involving absurd (smelling dog food) to painful (electric shocks) attempts at aversion therapy. Having said that, we should deeply concerned about the potential impacts of professional policies in private fields being established by the actions of politicized government legislative bodies. It wasn't an act of Congress that caused the American Psychological Association (APA) to drop homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, even if it was heavily lobbied and somewhat politicized decision (for the time). The APA was ahead of the government anyway, given how long it took for sodomy laws to be struck down.

The court may dismiss the First Amendment concerns here, but the law is truly telling psychologists what they may and may not discuss with their patients. And given that the law can't affect the behavior of unlicensed therapists anyway, California teens with unaccepting parents may still find themselves shipped off to some camp in the woods somewhere.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Christophe||

    So is that why the Texas GOP is specifically mentioning this practice (and their stance to not ban it) in their platform?

  • ||

    They're not called the Stupid Party for nothing.

  • Scott S.||

    Arguing the opposite is still getting political legislative bodies involved.

  • ||

    I don't have any problems with a law that says you can't force someone to do something against their will, whether they're under-18 or not. If some 18-year-old wants to go get his homo-demon exorcised, well, he's welcome to try.

  • Homple||

    If a boy decides he wants to be a girl without swapping his Y chromosome for another X, have his genitalia severely altered and not be accused of being outside mainstream science, why can't another guy decide he wants to quit being attracted to men and get treatment so he likes women instead?

  • Brett L||

    HE can. Other people should not be able to force such treatment upon someone.

  • Tonio||

    Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

  • Homple||

    Suppose a minor boy wants to have his genitals chopped and channeled. I assume you agree that his parents can prevent that until the guy reaches the age of majority.Is this so?

  • Homple||

    (The above to Brett L.)

  • Brett L||

    As guardians, yes. The key question in this whole thing is to what extent can a guardian act "in the best interest" of the ward when the ward expresses a different or conflicted interest. The answer for something of this magnitude is probably that they shouldn't. It isn't vital that it be resolved before majority.

  • ||

    A Glee screenshot, really?

    I do approve of the alt-text though.

  • Scott S.||

    Maybe I should have found that shot from "But I'm a Cheerleader" of Eddie Cibrian dancing around in those little denim shorts.

  • ||

    Yes. Yes you should have. But I'm a Cheerleader references are always correct when this topic comes up.

    I just started watching Season 1 of Orange Is the New Black and couldn't place Nicky until a friend pointed out she was the main character from But I'm a Cheerleader.

  • Scott S.||

    The actor who played Karofsky is more my type. I need to find me a 40-year-old version of him.

  • Brandon||

    Yall are confirming a lot of stereotypes right now.

  • From the Tundra||

    Californians watch too much tv?

  • ||

    Liking camp movies and Eddie Cibrian scantily clad, and being at least passingly familiar with Glee?

    Did I miss any?

    I'll even admit to thinking Max Adler (Karofsky) is relatively easy on the eyes.

  • Paul.||

    Liking camp movies and Eddie Cibrian scantily clad, and being at least passingly familiar with Glee?

    Did I miss any?

    Crowbar some show tunes in there, and we've hit all the bullet points.

    "Clang Clang Clang [__________]"

  • Tonio||

    Stereotypes exist for a reason, Bran-don.

  • Paul.||

    My mother taught me to stereotype. She said it's faster.

  • SusanM||

    "As a gay man of a certain age..."

    Well, that answers the question I asked a few columns ago. Pardon me while I try to pry my shoes out of my mouth...

  • GroundTruth||

    Not all libertyminded folk are straight, and not all gays are leftists. The preoponderance of the populations in question do tend to follow the stereotype, but there are a sizeable number of both camps coming out about not fitting the model.

  • Winston||

    The Supreme Court has cement shut any possible opening to allow further psychological child abuse in California

    So no more Public Schools?

  • Libertymike||

    "The court's refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practiced the quackery of [advocating for public education]is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles."

  • Marshall Gill||

    No, we are not homosexuals, but we are willing to learn. Yeah, could they send us some place special?

    What if parents wanted to send their children to reparative therapy for straight youths?

  • SusanM||

    +5 push-ups

  • Brandon||

    Open mouth pushups?

  • Jayburd||

    "What if parents wanted to send their children to reparative therapy for straight youths?" Catholic Seminary? The Boy Scouts?

  • Aresen||

    California teens with unaccepting parents may still find themselves shipped off to some camp in the woods somewhere.

    Kid walking through the woods at night: "I'm scared."
    Clown: "You're scared?! I'm the one who has to walk home alone!

    /tasteless

  • Winston||

    So shouldn't the more important question be should minors be forced to take therapies they don't like and does the state have the right to ban therapies it thinks are nonsense?

  • Brandon||

    That's more than one question. And both are "No."

  • ||

    A reparative therapy "success story."

  • ||

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that therapies designed to change sexual orientation for those under the age of 18 were outside the scientific mainstream and have been disavowed by most major medical groups as unproven and potentially dangerous.

    Great, so when do we stop subjecting people to gender re-assignment surgery (occasionally at )?

  • ||

    That is, at taxpayers' expense.

  • ||

    Sorry, jesse. Meant this to go to the general thread, not you specifically.

  • ||

    No worries. I've done it enough times myself.

  • Aresen||

    So, it's Germany vs France in '14.

    That seems familiar, somehow.

  • Winston||

    So what's their Von Schlieffen plan?

  • Sevo||

    Think "The Ardennes", say the axis St. Vith, Bastogne, to the Meuse.

  • Tonio||

    Looks up from sand table, adjusts monocle, inclines pickelhauber slightly towards Sevo.

  • SusanM||

    And they say history never repeats itself. All they need is to have France bring on some substitutions from team USA to break a tie near the end.

  • paranoid android||

    You're getting ahead of yourself! First Germany will break out decisively and head downfield for a goal, when suddenly the Russian team arrives out of nowhere on the other side, forcing the Germans to draw back momentarily before the Russians all promptly trip on their own shoelaces and get knocked out of commission.

  • Sevo||

    ..."Having said that, we should deeply concerned about the potential impacts of professional policies in private fields being established by the actions of politicized government legislative bodies."...

    This.
    There's certainly no lack of quackery in therapy in general, but who draws the bounds here?
    If Sammy isn't yet comfortable with liking guys and talks to a therapist about it, is the therapist now in danger of legal action?

  • SusanM||

    That isn't impossible in that scenario. If Sammy said to the shrink: "I think I'm gay but I don't want to be" it wouldn't be surprising if the shrink thought he'd get in trouble. But the problem with reparative therapy - as a separate field - is that is hasn't been shown work at all where as other fields in psychology have some kind of reliable track record.

  • Sevo||

    ..."But the problem with reparative therapy - as a separate field - is that is hasn't been shown work at all where as other fields in psychology have some kind of reliable track record."

    I specifically do not argue with this comment; my concern simply the state intrusion into what should be a two-party decision.

  • SusanM||

    Oh. I see what you mean. I guess I don't have a problem with anything voluntary.

  • Sevo||

    And for emphasis, I agree that the supposed therapy is worthless at best.
    But, if two people...

  • SusanM||

    And yes it really is intrusive as long as all parties are participating voluntarily.

  • ||

    My vote is that Sammy must learn about his homosexuality in the streets.

    However, state-approved and highly specialized homosexual therapists as well as whole-family homosexual adaptation therapies is probably the more unforseeable-but-forseeable outcome.

  • GroundTruth||

    Big difference between "reparative therapy" and counseling. One is a rather invasive technique while the other is (should be) about giving the person space and opportunity to make sense of what is going on in his head.

  • GroundTruth||

    Big difference between "reparative therapy" and counseling. One is a rather invasive technique while the other is (should be) about giving the person space and opportunity to make sense of what is going on in his head.

  • ||

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that therapies designed to change sexual orientation for those under the age of 18 were outside the scientific mainstream and have been disavowed by most major medical groups as unproven and potentially dangerous.

    Great, so when do we stop subjecting people to gender re-assignment surgery (occasionally at taxpayers' expense)?

  • SusanM||

    Mad, if there are parents forcing their children to undergo GRS (as they do with rep therapy)then by all means they should be stopped.

    As for the taxpayer expense stuff - you won't get an argument from me. Especially not from the case you linked.

  • ||

    The law didn't strike down or stipulate conditions for the well-being of the minor. It struck down the practice as a whole.

    Also, you're cool with therapists *and surgeons* performing irreversible gender therapy with zero benefit because science, but staunchly opposed to therapists, parents, and religious officials performing behavioral therapy because religion?

  • Sevo||

    ..."with zero benefit"...

    Uh, are you to be the one who decides the benefit?

  • ||

    SCOTUS says who the experts wrt RT therapy are and they decide whether the therapy is safe and/or efficacious. Apparently it's them.

    Let me ask you this, why would any other state-based interventionism/banning 'for theh childrunz' fall on deaf ears in this forum?

  • Sevo||

    m.c.
    Sorry; let me try the question with a longer quote:
    ..."performing irreversible gender therapy with zero benefit"...
    My point is, the party getting the surgery decides whether it has benefit or not.

  • ||

    Okay, I guess we're (or just I) am mingling two gray areas here. If AA or other addiction therapy were as ineffective as GRS, we'd be calling it a fraud or a sham. I don't see an adult consenting to fraud as much different than a minor with parents acting against their intentions (whether those intentions jive with best outcomes or not).

    People commiting to a course of therapy because DSM is *far* worse than parents taking their kids to a counselor because teh gay. Esp. if RT is less frequent, oppressive, and intense than most piano lessons.

    Parents are always going to find a way to be disappointed in or have higher expectations for their kids. Legislating a ban fixes nothing. Whereas a ban or more studied and selective application of GRS seems to be the best course even without Gov't intervention.

    GRS aside, law of unintended consequences; when a family copes with their gay children by taking them to RT, what happens when you ban RT?

  • ||

    GRS aside, law of unintended consequences; when a family copes with their gay children by taking them to RT, what happens when you ban RT?

    Valid point. My two younger siblings (who have thankfully made me NOT the black sheep of the children anymore) have both been sent to other states* for "tough love" types of drug treatment. Surprise! They're still both addicts.

    *Utah, Georgia and Florida

  • Coeus||

    If AA or other addiction therapy were as ineffective as GRS,

    AA is most likely just as ineffective. Surrendering yourself to a higher power when you what you lack is self determination and willpower is the height of idiocy.

  • SusanM||

    First, there is in fact a lively debate within the trans* community about whether GRS is necessary or whether taking and promoting a broader view regarding gender expression and identity would be a better way.

    Second, the study you linked doesn't attribute the increased morbidity directly to GRS but recommended better post-op care rather than ending GRS.

    As for RT - it doesn't fucking work. At best. At worst it causes more harm than good. The laws only focus on compulsory treatment of minors. If you are concerned about your own gay urges, you may pay as much as you want however often you want to try to fix it.

  • ||

    As for RT - it doesn't fucking work.

    I refer you to Sevo; "Uh, are you to be the one who decides the benefit?"

    Little Einsteins, Braces, piano lessons, football, Little Miss Whatever Pageants, dance classes, medical school, golf lessons, Chinese lessons, etc., etc.; parents subject their kids to brutal, unreal, and ineffective regimes and treatments with false expectations *all the time*. Look at the RT methods and practices, HS sports is far more oppressive and *actually* destructive to far more children. Why are the vanishingly few and relatively miniscule number of children subjected to this "harmful" treatment SO important?

    Let's be real clear about this.

    Your stance is that the state should intervene in a practice that TOP MEN says causes more harm than good? Intervene in family and church conduct, for the good of the children?

    I mean cheerleading or gymnastics physically and mentally cripples young girls by the hundreds (both voluntarily and involuntarily), but if the State of California banned "forced" cheerleading this forum would be mocking them and swearing a fucking blue streak at the state for intervening.

  • SusanM||

    If it were just TOP MEN or just my opinion then you'd be right. But the fact that RT is quackery has been fairly well established. Hindu Swamis and revival tent faith healers have better success rates, in fact.

    There may be something to what you're saying. I guess I kind of get my back up because implicit in the RT mission is the idea that being what I am means I'm broken in some regard. I don't see that. I'm a working, rent and bill paying member of society and I'm in no need of fixing.

  • ||

    I've gotten lost in the comparison of GRS and reparative therapy. Are you saying the CA law banned the practice of reparative therapy as a whole in CA? The CA law is very specific about it being applied only to minors:

    865.1. Under no circumstances shall a mental health provider engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age.

    865.2. Any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject a mental health provider to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.
  • Sevo||

    ..."Any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age"...

    jesse, this is what raises the question.
    If Sammy talks to his shrink about being gay, and Sammy later gets pissed at his shrink, is the shrink now liable under that provision?

  • ||

    If Sammy is a dick and later decides to make life miserable for a shrink it wouldn't really matter what came up in therapy. He could just say the shrink touched him in his bikini area. The law is fairly clear about what is and isn't sexual orientation change efforts though.

    (b) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

    (2) “Sexual orientation change efforts” does not include psychotherapies that: (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.

    The wording is a little warm-and-fuzzy in part 2 for my taste, but unless Sammy's shrink is trying to convince Sammy that he can live a life of happy, healthy heterosexuality, he wouldn't be in violation of the law.

  • Sevo||

    Suffice to say, I'm less comfortable with that than you are.

  • Tonio||

    Why is that, Sevo, srsly?

  • Sevo||

    "Why is that, Sevo, srsly?"
    1) So long as it is voluntary, the state has no business sticking its nose in what should be a choice between two parties.
    Which leads to:
    2) Even with the definitions listed above, it opens the door for a dissatisfied party to sue the pants off another party for no true harm at all.

  • Tonio||

    Voluntary. That's the thing about minors, Sevo, the voluntary bit. Doesn't actually work like it does for adults, eh?

  • Sevo||

    "Voluntary. That's the thing about minors, Sevo"...

    Good question. I could joke that O-care says you're a minor until 26, but I'm not sure.
    I was gone from the house and making all my decisions at 18. jesse was being pretty clear to his shrink at, what?
    I'm gonna opt for less state intrusion, but admit I can't put a specific number on the change.

  • ||

    I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the laws being passed. If it were banning adult therapy I'd be outright hostile, and at best I'm warily accepting of it for minors only. And my tepid acceptance of the law is only because I've seen the emotional process that gets parents to send their kids into this sort of therapy first hand, and it's frankly not pretty or rational.

    I've said this before, but my treatment was quite benign compared to the therapist from the "success story" I posted above, but the treatment ended after several sessions of him telling me I had to admit that I'd been sexually abused as a child. Except I hadn't been sexually abused as a child. He eventually said I was unserious about my treatment if I couldn't admit I'd been abused and that I was one of his "most difficult patients" (not in a hard case way but a stubborn way).

  • Sevo||

    ..."but the treatment ended after several sessions of him telling me I had to admit that I'd been sexually abused as a child. Except I hadn't been sexually abused as a child."...

    Not fun, but to be honest, it doesn't sound a whole lot worse than dear ol' Mom sending me to Sunday School after I told here I didn't think there was any such ting as a god.
    I had to waste Sunday mornings for the better part of a year.

  • ||

    For me it's an annoying and slightly funny story, but at the point where a mental health authority figure is insisting that kids "remember" being molested you're getting into emotional abuse.

    Funny story: my adoptive mom was politically activated by the McMartin school trial and was totally adamant that if my therapist said I'd been molested, then I definitely was, so SHE then spent all this time trying to get me to "admit" I'd been molested and wanted to put me in therapy to recover memories of me having been molested. Yay!

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    so when do we stop subjecting people to gender re-assignment surgery


    Just as much a form of abuse as the "gay cure", IMO.

  • flye||

    Didn't we all just agree that companies should be forced to cover gay reparative therapies as part of Obamacare, and those horrible robed fascists struck that clause down?

  • MegaloMonocle||

    Flashback to the 19th century:

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that therapies designed to change sexual orientation for those under the age of 18 the germ theory of disease put forth by foreign (French, even!) soi-disant "scientists" were outside the scientific mainstream and have been disavowed by most major medical groups as unproven and potentially dangerous.

    Seriously, legislators should stay out of what is good science and what isn't.

  • Tonio||

    Are you actually, seriously advancing that as an argument, RC Dean?

    Just becuase the Ninth Circuit of the late nineteenth century (citation?) was wrong about germ theory that means that courts of the early twenty-first century are inherently incapable of deciding anything about any contemporary (21st Cent) medical practice?

  • MegaloMonocle||

    Yes, I am advancing this as an example of why the state and the courts should just butt the fuck out of this.

    No, that's not a real 19th century opinion. However, it maps over perfectly. Which should give you pause.

    Yes, the courts of the early 21st century are, in fact, inherently incapable of deciding what constitutes good medical science. The courts have a long and sad history of (a) certifying scientific experts peddling theories that we (now) know are bunk and (b) refusing to certify scientific experts whose theories we (now) know were superior to the "consensus" at the time.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Yet, if, say a hetero youth has fantasies of having extramarital sex, he's not sent into therapy to get gay-ified or to stop caring about sex. Yet presumably the parents see fornication as just as much of a sin as sodomy.

    Right?

    I'm not dying on this conversion-therapy hill.

  • Libertarian||

    "California teens with unaccepting parents may still find themselves shipped off to some camp in the woods somewhere."

    Go on........

  • Lady Bertrum||

    The story ends badly with a masked guy wielding a machete.

  • MegaloMonocle||

    Umm, spoiler alert?

  • Libertarian||

    I was just thinking that if I were a 17 yr old confused about my sexual identity, I could imagine worse things than being sent off to a camp in the woods with similarly alienated peers.

  • ||

    That's just because you watched But I'm a Cheerleader. When I went to the Love Won Out conference in 2000 there were plenty of much more overtly gay guys that were my age, but everyone was really skittish and nobody would make eye contact, or if they did they'd break it and run away quickly.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I have to disagree with libertarians on this one: as it pertains to youth, there's definitely programs and regimes within the "gay cure" movement which qualify as forms of child abuse. In particular, when it involves electroshock therapy one has moved from the realm of debate and into the realm of certainty on whether or not a child is being harmed by these "gay cure" procedures.

    I don't know that a strict ban on all efforts to "cure" homosexuality should be illegal, but I will say that these "cures" and attempts to find such are quite frankly evil and pathological. In the case of "cures" which involve physical and mental abuse, it is obvious that the law should weigh in favor of the child over their guardian.

  • Tonio||

    A certain extra-fancy grade jurist would like a word with you about children actually having, like, rights and stuff.

  • MegaloMonocle||

    there's definitely programs and regimes within the "gay cure" movement which qualify as forms of child abuse

    So they're already illegal, and we don't need the courts horning on treatments that are not child abuse, do we?

  • widget||

    For kids, gay awareness is a positive. I'll accept that some kids are gay from the gate. There is nothing for parents, schools, or society to cure here. Just go with it.

    There is another form of gayness, or homosexuality, that stems from the itch that is easier to scratch. I don't care how macho of a guy you are, it is easier, for 13yo boy, to put his throbbing dong into arthritic Bishop Howard's ass than nubile Megan McMurphy's virgin vagina.

    My sexual encounters have not been 100% hetero. So I know this.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Speaking of the Supreme Court turning down cases involving quackery, they passed on a case involving breathalyzers:

    "The high court’s rejection means the ruling of the California Supreme Court stands, that DUI defendants cannot bring in expert witnesses to try to debunk the reliability of breath-alcohol testing used throughout the state by law enforcement."

  • Tonio||

    So, we're going to have to wait for a compelling case to come before the Ninth, or a sea change in SCOTUS.

  • PapayaSF||

    "Unproven and potentially dangerous" is what the "experts" say, huh? Aren't there "experts" on marriage who describe same-sex marriage the same way?

    I'm not advocating this sort of treatment, but this law smells more like politics than science. Especially since "unproven and potentially dangerous" describes about 80% of what progressives want. So now that's dispositive, huh?

  • T.A.L.L||

    As a conservative Christian leader I am happy with this decision. Gay conversion therapy and these terrible practices run contrary to an orthodox Biblical understanding of the inner workings of people. They need to go, especially when it comes to children.

  • WashMagic||

    It may be easy to ban therapies to deal with sodomy, but what about books? Should books be banned that discuss the very same things? And how about the Bible? Should the Bible be banned due to its proscriptions against sodomy? Should the mention of God deserve a trigger warning, due to shame?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement