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Supreme Court won't intervene in California ban on gay-conversion therapy

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider arguments against California's ban on a controversial therapy aimed at reversing homosexuality in children, allowing the prohibition to be enforced in the most populous U.S. state.

The court's decision not to take up the case follows a ruling by an appeals court last year that the prohibition on so-called "gay conversion therapy" for minors is not a violation of the constitutional rights of counselors or parents, as argued by a conservative religious group that challenged the ban.

"The Court’s refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practice the quackery of gay conversion therapy is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles," said state senator Ted Lieu, who authored the ban. "Those who oppose letting children be what they were born to be can no longer claim that the law infringes the free speech rights of therapists who wish to engage in these dangerous and long-discredited practices."

Last year's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District resolved two lawsuits seeking to stop implementation of Lieu's measure, which prohibits therapists from performing sexual-orientation change counseling with children and teens under age 18.

"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," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Christian-based organization that filed the lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.

"The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior. They are greatly benefiting from this counseling," Staver said.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed the ban into law in 2012, making the nation's most populous state the first to prohibit the treatment, also known as reparative therapy or change therapy, among youths. New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie signed a similar measure into law last year.

The California ban marked a major victory for gay rights advocates, who say the treatment lacks a medical basis and can psychologically harm gay and lesbian youth.

Implementation of the law had been on hold pending the suits filed by Christian groups seeking to block it. The California Psychological Association and the California Board of Behavioral Sciences supported the ban.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Susan Heavey)

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