In a rare development, two federal judges in Sacramento have come to opposite conclusions on the constitutionality of a new California law that bars the use of "gay conversion therapy" on minors.
On Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller ruled that the law prohibiting licensed mental health providers from steering patients under 18 away from gay and lesbian lifestyles does not infringe on the suing providers' constitutional guarantee of free speech.
Thus, she concluded, providers challenging the law are unlikely to prevail, and she refused to grant them a preliminary injunction precluding enforcement of the law, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
Late Monday, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb found in a separate case raising the same issue that the new law does infringe on the free speech rights of providers.
He found the providers pressing the point in the case before him are likely to succeed on the merits, and he issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the new law as it pertains to his three plaintiffs. The injunction will remain in place until the lawsuit is decided on its merits by the courts or the parties reach a settlement.
Mueller, a much junior judge to Shubb, also ruled in her 44-page order that the new law, SB 1172 by state Sen. Ted Lieu, does not violate the minor patients' free speech rights to receive information from a mental health professional, and refused to grant the patients a preliminary injunction. She said the youngsters and their parents have viable alternatives and California providers are able under the law to refer patients to others not covered by the measure.
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