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Court upholds Calif. ban on gay therapy

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 US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 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 or of patients seeking treatment.

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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 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 and 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.

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