Friday, September 12, 2014

3rd Circuit Upholds New Jersey's Ban On Reparative Therapy As Permissible Regulation of Professional Speech

Yesterday, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld against 1st Amendment challenges New Jersey's statute barring professional counselors from engaging in sexual orientation change therapy with minors. In King v. Governor of the State of New Jersey, (3rd Cir., Sept. 11, 2014), the court affirmed the district court's decision, while disagreeing with its 1st Amendment free expression analysis. Rejecting the district court's conclusion that talk therapy is not speech, the court instead concluded that it is "professional speech" which is subject to the same intermediate scrutiny as commercial speech.  Applying that test, the court found that the law directly advances New Jersey’s interest in protecting minors from harmful professional practices and is narrowly enough tailored to survive intermediate scrutiny.  The court rejected plaintiffs' free exercise challenge, finding that the law is neutral and generally applicable, and rejected plaintiffs' overbreadth challenge as well. Finally it agreed with the district court that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit on behalf of their minor clients. Bloomberg News reports on the decision. Liberty Counsel which represented plaintiffs announced that it would seek Supreme Court review.