National Center for Lesbian Rights

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Cases & Advocacy

Otto v. City of Boca Raton Amicus

In 2017, the City of Boca Raton, Florida, and the County of Palm Beach, Florida, each enacted local ordinances prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient under 18 years old. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

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Cases & Advocacy

Christopher Doyle, LPC, LCPC v. Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr. Amicus

On May 15, 2018, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed the state’s Youth Mental Health Protection Act, prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient under 18 years old. In January 2019, an anti-LGBTQ legal group filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of Christopher Doyle, a therapist and advocate of conversion therapy.

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Cases & Advocacy

McCobb v. Willey

NCLR and co-counsel filed a complaint on behalf of Katherine McCobb, against California-licensed marriage and family therapist Lloyd Willey. Willey told McCobb that being a lesbian is unnatural and pathological and that her sexual orientation could be changed through so-called “conversion therapy,” which has been discredited as ineffective, unethical, and dangerous. McCobb paid Willey more than $70,000 for eight years of therapy based on fraudulent, harmful lies.

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Cases & Advocacy

Vazzo v. City of Tampa Amicus

In April 2017, Tampa’s City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting licensed therapists from engaging in the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, with patients under 18 years old. In December 2017, an anti-LGBTQ legal organization challenged the law on behalf of Robert Vazzo and David Pickup, two licensed therapists who want to subject minors to conversion therapy.

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Cases & Advocacy

Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown

In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the first law in the nation prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a patient under 18 years old. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. NCLR and Equality California, the state’s leading LGBTQ political organization, were the primary organizational sponsors of the law, authored by Senator Ted Lieu.

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Legislation & Policy

Assembly Bill 3371

In 2013, NCLR worked with local advocates in New Jersey to pass Assembly Bill 3371—a law modeled off California’s groundbreaking Senate Bill 1172. On August 19 of that year, Governor Chris Christie signed the nation’s second law prohibiting state-licensed therapists from practicing anti-LGBT conversion therapy on those under 18 years old. Though every major medical and mental health organization has cautioned that attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are ineffective and harmful, some mental health practitioners licensed by the state continue to exploit parents and youth by falsely claiming they can prevent a child from growing up to be LGBT.

Noting the American Psychological Association’s warning that these practices put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem, and even suicide, Governor Christie emphasized that he was signing the bill because of his concern about “exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks.”

Immediately after the bill became law, the same anti-LGBTQ legal group that challenged the California bill filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of New Jersey therapists and parents that support the use of these harmful practices. NCLR intervened in those lawsuits to help the New Jersey Attorney General defend the law and protect young people from this psychological abuse. The U.S. District Court in New Jersey upheld the law, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Third’s Circuit’s ruling.

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Cases & Advocacy

King v. Christie and Doe v. Christie

On August 19, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the nation’s second law prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient under 18 years old. An anti-LGBTQ legal group immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of two New Jersey therapists and two organizations that support conversion therapy.

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Legislation & Policy

California Senate Bill 1172

In 2012, NCLR helped draft and pass a groundbreaking law in California that prohibits licensed mental health practitioners from trying to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender expression. Sometimes called “reparative therapy,” these dangerous practices by therapists put youth at risk of severe depression, suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Every major medical and mental health organization has warned that attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation are ineffective and harmful, but some licensed therapists continue to lie to parents and youth falsely claiming they can prevent a child from being LGBT. When Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1172 into law, he rightly said that these non-scientific practices should “be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” As soon as the bill became law, it was challenged in court by therapists and parents claiming they have a constitutional right to subject children to these harmful practices. NCLR has intervened in those lawsuits to help the California Attorney General protect young people from this abuse.

Read more about the case that unsuccessfully challenged this law.

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