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Court upholds first ban on gay-to-straight therapy

BY PAUL ELIAS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

9cir_header_COA SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the nation's first-of-its-kind law in California prohibiting health practitioners from offering psychotherapy aimed at making gay youth straight.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the state's ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors doesn't violate the free speech rights of licensed counselors and patients seeking treatment.

The activities of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs would not be covered under the law.

The case before the appeals court was brought by professionals who practice sexual-orientation change therapy, two families who say their teenage sons benefited from it, and a national association of Christian mental health counselors. They argued the ban infringes on their free speech and freedom of association and religious rights. The counselors also argue it jeopardizes their livelihoods.

However, in a 3-0 ruling, the court panel held that California has the power to prohibit licensed mental health providers from administering therapies deemed harmful, and the fact that speech may be used to carry out those therapies does not turn such bans into prohibitions of speech.

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