The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear a challenge to a California law that bans “conversion therapy” aimed at changing the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian minors.
The court, in rejecting the case, effectively let stand a federal appeals court ruling issued last August that said that the state’s ban on the practice did not violate the free speech rights of counselors or people seeking treatment. The appeals court had said that the state had an interest in banning professional treatments it considered harmful.
The Supreme Court did not say why it rejected the case, as is its custom.
Some conservative and religious groups continue to argue that sexuality is not innate and that a person could change his or her sexual orientation. Scientific and medical groups, however, have said that there is no evidence that sexual attractions can be changed. They also say that conversion therapies can be harmful.
Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal aid group that is affiliated with Liberty University in Virginia, had petitioned the Supreme Court to step in, arguing that lawmakers had no scientific basis for their contention that conversion therapy does harm.
“I am deeply saddened for the families we represent and for the thousands of children that our professional clients counsel, many of whom developed these unwanted attractions because of abuse of a pedophile,” the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, said in a statement.
“The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions,” he said, “nor do they want to engage in such behavior. They are greatly benefiting from this counseling.”
The Supreme Court’s rejection of the case clears the way for California to begin enforcing the ban on conversion therapy, gay advocacy groups said.
“We are proud to live in the first state to protect young people from the lifelong damage caused by these horrific practices," said Rick Zbur, the executive director-elect of Equality California, one of the groups that pushed for the law’s passage.