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EQCA and NCLR move to defend law protecting LGBT youth from reparative therapy

SAN FRANCISCO -- Late Friday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson filed court papers seeking to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the new California law protecting LGBT young people from dangerous and potentially deadly psychological abuse.

NCLR and Munger Tolles filed the motion on behalf of Equality California asking the federal district court in Sacramento to permit them to join California Attorney General Kamala Harris in defending Senate Bill 1172, which prohibits state-licensed therapists who claim to be able to change their clients' sexual orientation or gender expression from using dangerous practices that can lead to extreme depression and suicide.

The bill, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, was authored by state Sen. Ted Lieu, co-sponsored by NCLR, Equality California, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations.

On Sept. 29, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, making California the first state in the country to prevent mental health professionals from trying to change minors’ sexual orientation or gender expression through practices that have been rejected by every mainstream mental health association as ineffective and dangerous.

On Oct. 4, two anti-LGBT groups, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and Liberty Counsel, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law and asking the court to prevent the law from going into effect.

NCLR’s motion to intervene details Equality California’s critical role as a lead co-sponsor of the law, and requests court permission to intervene on behalf of EQCA and on behalf of its members, including LGBT people who have been subjected to these damaging practices and who testified before the legislature in support of Senate Bill 1172. EQCA’s members also include LGBT youth who potentially could be subjected to these abusive practices as well as the parents of LGBT youth.

The motion demonstrates that EQCA would bring an essential perspective to the lawsuit that is not represented by the plaintiffs or the state officials who currently are parties.

"This lawsuit is a desperate attempt by extreme anti-LGBT groups to defend the indefensible — mental health professionals who subject young people to dangerous practices," said Kate Kendell, NCLR executive director.

"The plain fact is that every mainstream medical and mental health association in the country has warned that these practices are ineffective and deadly. The state has the right and obligation to protect young people from this psychological abuse, which can lead to depression, substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide,” she said.

“We know this law will save lives, but our opponents know that if the law stands it will hurt their livelihood. They have made careers out of making young LGBT people feel ashamed, wrong, sick, and bad. They want to keep engaging in an array of deplorable practices to attempt to change the essence of who these kids are, and we won’t back down until they are stopped," Kendall said.

Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president, vowed to defend the law.

"We are committed to defending this law on behalf of our members and the entire LGBT community. Our members have a stake in this law, and we are committed to ensuring that the protections set in place by the legislature and the governor are enacted, and given full force and effect. Our state lawmakers recognize that this law is necessary to protect young people from serious harm, and we are confident the law will be easily upheld," she said.