Regulating Sexual Orientation Change Efforts: The California Approach, Its Limitations, and Potential Alternatives

54 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2013 Last revised: 25 Mar 2014

See all articles by Jacob Victor

Jacob Victor

Albany Law School; Yale Information Society Project; NYU School of Law

Date Written: February 12, 2014

Abstract

California recently became the first state to ban licensed psychotherapists from engaging in “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) — also known as conversion therapy — with a minor. This Note argues that, despite the legislation’s laudable goals, California’s regulatory strategy may not necessarily offer the best model for other states seeking to limit SOCE. California’s approach is troubling for several reasons: it reinforces an essentializing conception of sexual identity; it is particularly amenable to First Amendment challenges; and it has the potential to generate political backlash by feeding into historically pervasive anti-gay narratives. I suggest that an alternative approach would curtail SOCE therapists’ influence using existing state laws that forbid medical professionals from making deceptive promises about the effectiveness of their services. As SOCE is widely considered to be ineffective, challenging SOCE practitioners using state anti-deception law could potentially achieve results similar to those of a full SOCE ban.

Keywords: LGBT, California, SB 1172, sexuality, First Amendment, Ferguson v. Jonah, SOCE, Conversion Therapy, Pickup v. Brown

Suggested Citation

Victor, Jacob, Regulating Sexual Orientation Change Efforts: The California Approach, Its Limitations, and Potential Alternatives (February 12, 2014). 123 Yale Law Journal 1352 (2014), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2307188

Jacob Victor (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

Yale Information Society Project ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

NYU School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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