The Atlantic
December 11, 2012

The government unquestionably has the power to protect children from treatments by state-licensed mental health professionals that are harmful and ineffective. Thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of children have been subjected to aggressive efforts by therapists to try and change their sexual orientation. Parents, learning their children are expressing attraction to the same sex, have put them in so-called "conversion" or "reparative" therapy--despite warnings by medical and mental health organizations that these practices have no scientific credibility and put youth at risk of serious harms. It was in light of this overwhelming medical consensus that the California legislature passed SB 1172, which prohibits a mental health professional from engaging in "sexual orientation change efforts" with a patient under age 18. The bill quotes findings from groups such as the American Psychological Association that such therapy does not succeed in changing a person's sexual orientation and often causes great psychological harm. Now some groups are challenging this law as violating the First Amendment, especially as a restriction on freedom of speech.