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Chris Christie Sued for Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy; NJ Parents Say It Violates Constitutional Rights

A couple has filed a lawsuit against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for enacting a ban on gay conversion therapy earlier this year, arguing the ban violates their rights to free speech, religious freedom, and equal protection under the constitution.

The unidentified couple filed the lawsuit against Christie in federal court in Camden last Friday, arguing that the ban prevents them from seeking gay conversion therapy for their 15-year-old son by "denying minors the opportunity to pursue a particular course of action that can help them address the conflicts between their religious and moral values and same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity."

The lawsuit goes on to argue that the 15-year-old teen of the parents began "experiencing gender identity disorder when he was around nine years old," and has struggled with thoughts of suicide and depression because he has been unable to identify with the male sex throughout his teen years. The boy's disposition improved when he began seeing a social worker in 2011 to discuss his homosexual urges, and the social worker later recommended he begin seeing a licensed psychotherapist to delve deeper into his issues, but he was unable to do so due to the new ban on gay conversion therapy signed by Christie in August.

"John Doe has a sincerely held religious belief and conviction that homosexuality is wrong and immoral, and he wanted to address that value conflict because his unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion are contrary to the fundamental religious values that he holds," the lawsuit argues, according to the Associated Press.

Proponents of the ban argue that those who continue to seek counseling for homosexuality for their children may visit an unlicensed counselor, such as a clergy member, for advice, but the parents in the lawsuit argue that such resources do not share the same "scholarly views" on sexual orientation as a registered psychotherapist does.

The lawsuit also argues that the research used to support the state's gay conversion ban is incomplete, arguing most of the research was done on adults, not children, and that the research was not scientifically sound. The lawsuit is seeking an injunction on the ban and nominal damages, as well as attorney fees. 

This is the second lawsuit of its kind to hit New Jersey since the gay conversion ban was enacted this past summer. The state has also been sued by a Christian counselors organization and a group of counselors who practice gay conversion therapy. The first federal lawsuit, filed in late August, argues that the gay conversion ban violates the licensed therapist's obligation to "respect the rights of clients to make decisions."

The ban "[prohibits] New Jersey Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists from respecting the rights of clients to make the decisions because the state has already made the decision for every client that may seek counseling from a licensed professional on the issue of sexual orientation," the first lawsuit stated.

New Jersey is the second state to sign a law banning gay conversion therapy for minors; California enacted an almost identical law that was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal judge has until December 2 to decide whether to grant an injunction on the gay therapy ban for the lawsuit against Christie. 

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