Geof Stone on Welch v. Brown

Sexual Orientation Change Therapy and the First Amendment
Geoffrey R. Stone
The Huffington Post
December 14, 2012

Earlier this year, California enacted a law that defines as "unprofessional conduct" any effort of a "mental health provider" to engage in "sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age."

According to a report of a committee of the California Senate, sexual orientation change efforts (known as SOCE) include such practices as "electric shock or nausea inducing drugs administered simultaneously with the presentation of homoerotic stimuli" and "psychoanalytic therapy." The legislature found that such practices, when used in an effort to change a minor's sexual orientation, are both harmful to the patient and ineffective. It therefore prohibited their use.

Before the law took effect on January 1, 2013, several mental health providers who practice SOCE filed suit in federal court to enjoin the implementation of the new law on the ground that it violates their rights under First Amendment. In Welch v. Brown, federal district judge William Shubb, in a thoughtful opinion, agreed with the plaintiffs and held the law unconstitutional.

Although Judge Shubb's opinion was thoughtful, it was also, in my view, wrong on the law.

Geoffrey R. Stone