NASHVILLE, Tenn. In what is being called a victory for religious liberty and parental rights, a federal judge has ruled against California's controversial new law that bans change therapy for gay teens.
The first-of-its-kind law, signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in September, prevents licensed counselors from trying to change a minor's sexuality, even if the therapy is desired by the patient.
Judge William B. Shubb issued a temporary injunction Dec. 4 preventing the law from being enforced against the three plaintiffs in the case. But while Shubb's ruling was limited, he indicated he eventually would strike it down altogether. The day after Shubb's ruling, a federal judge in a second case upheld the law.
The law is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.
"Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their ... claims based on violations of their rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment," Shubb wrote. " ... The Supreme Court has recognized that physician speech is entitled to First Amendment protection because of the significance of the doctor-patient relationship."
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed the lawsuit. PJI President Brad Dacus said the law violates religious freedom, free speech and the rights of parents.
"It is not unusual for a judge to limit the injunction just to the plaintiffs themselves," Dacus told Baptist Press. "But the injunction is not based upon particular nuances or facts solely related to our client, but rather is prefaced upon the statute on its face being likely to be found unconstitutional."
The law states, "Under no circumstances shall a mental health provider engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age." Any mental health providers who attempt such counseling could lose their license, the law adds.
Shubb was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.
"California has arguably survived 150 years without this law and it would be a stretch of reason to conclude that it would suffer significant harm having to wait a few more months to know whether the law is enforceable as against the three plaintiffs in this case," Shubb wrote.