Sandy Rosen and Ben Bien-Kahn of RBGG are serving as counsel for Amici Curiae in a series of highly significant federal court cases that are strengthening the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) people. The firm’s clients are survivors of the anti-gay therapies known as “sexual orientation change efforts” (or SOCE), as well as the sister of a man who committed suicide after being subjected to SOCE as a child.
Earlier this year, RBGG filed an Amici brief for the SOCE survivors in support of a New Jersey law that bans “sexual orientation change efforts.” (King v. Governor of the State Of New Jersey, No. 13-4429, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.)
The New Jersey case comes on the heels of RBGG’s initial and successful representation of these Amici in Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown – two separate lawsuits challenging California’s Senate Bill 1172, which protects LGBT youth from the serious psychological harms caused by state-licensed therapists who use SOCE to try to change their patients’ sexual orientation.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals consolidated the two cases and then upheld SB 1172 in Pickup v. Brown, 728 F.3d 1042 (9th Cir. 2013). During oral arguments, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski specifically referenced the stories recounted by the SOCE survivors and complimented the Amicus Briefs.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) asked RBGG to draft the Amicus Curiae briefs only one month before the filing deadline. Notwithstanding this tight timeframe, Sandy and Ben reached out to a number of SOCE survivors, heard their powerful stories of the pain that they and their families suffered because they were exposed to these discredited and dangerous “therapies,” and distilled them into a compelling narrative urging the Ninth Circuit to uphold Senate Bill 1172 against dubious First Amendment challenges.
According to Shannon Minter, NCLR’s Legal Director, “RBGG stepped in and provided key amicus briefs detailing stories from survivors of this dangerous practice. Studies have shown that sexual orientation change efforts—and the false beliefs they promote regarding sexuality—are a leading cause of the high rates of parental rejection of LGBT youth, and the corresponding, shockingly high rates of homelessness, HIV infection, and poverty among LGBT youth. RBGG’s briefs personalized for the judges what SB1172 is really about—protecting kids from practices that every major professional organization in the mental health field has warned are ineffective and dangerous.”
RBGG also represented these Amici in the two marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court: Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which denied gay men and lesbian women the right to marry, and United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
In these Amicus Briefs, filed in the Supreme Court, the SOCE survivors urged the Supreme Court to review the discriminatory laws at issue under a heightened level of scrutiny because they single out LGBT people based on an immutable trait central to their identity. Through these briefs, RBGG recounted the Amici’s stories, emphasizing the immutability of sexual orientation and the stigmatizing effect of the discrimination and prejudice that has been and continues to be directed at LGBT people.
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit Court of Appeals opinion finding the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013). The Court also held that the proponents of Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal the federal district court opinion that found its prohibition on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Hollingsworth v. Perry, 133 S. Ct. 2652 (2013).