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Federal Judge Upholds New Jersey's Ban on Conversion Therapy for Gay Minors

Federal Judge Upholds New Jersey's Ban on Conversion Therapy for Gay Minors

A federal judge upheld a New Jersey law that prohibits conversion therapy for minors.

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson of the District of New Jersey rejected the second lawsuit against the law to be brought before the court.

Wolfson ruled last Wednesday in Doe v. Christie that the unnamed parents and their minor child who filed suit against the law did not have their rights violated by the therapy ban.

"Plaintiffs Jack and Jane Doe contend that their fundamental right to care for their son, John Doe, is infringed … because it prevents them from making decisions concerning their child's mental, emotional and physical health," wrote Wolfson.

"Plaintiffs provide no case law or other authority in support of the proposition that Jack and Jane Doe's fundamental parental rights encompass the right to choose for their son any medical treatment they desire."

Wolfson drew upon a decision she made last November, when a group of clinicians sued New Jersey over the law, known as A3371, in a decision titled King v. Christie.

"Plaintiffs have advanced no new argument or law in support of their contention that A3371 regulates speech that I did not already consider in King," wrote Wolfson.

"Furthermore, I concluded in King that A3371 does not implicate speech, but rather governs conduct. … Under the reasoning set forth in King, A3371 regulates mental health treatment — albeit in the form for talk therapy — not any particular speech of counselors or therapists involving certain views."

In 2012, Assemblyman Timothy J. Eustace introduced A-3371, a piece of legislation that had both Democrat and Republican support.

The bill banned licensed therapists from engaging in Sexual Orientation Change Efforts therapy for minors, which is psychiatric treatment meant to change a person's sexual orientation.

"A person who is licensed to provide professional counseling … shall not engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age," read A3371 in part.

A3371 was referred to the Assembly's Women and Children Committee. It passed the assembly last June with a vote of 56 yeas, 14 nays, and seven abstentions.

A few days later the New Jersey Senate passed the bill with a vote of 28 yeas to nine nays, sending the proposed legislation to Governor Chris Christie.

Christie, considered by many to be a potential GOP presidential candidate for the 2016 election, signed A3371 into law last August after weeks of public uncertainty.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at CPAC, National Harbor, Md., March, 6 2014. | (Credit: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)

"Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly," said Christie in a signing note, as reported by the Associated Press.

Recently both California and New Jersey have passed laws that ban SOCE for minors. Several other states have considered similar measures, but they have either been voted down or stalled.

Wolfson's decision comes a month after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by a group suing California for its therapy law.

The Liberty Counsel, which filed the petition for an appeal, expressed disappointment with the the Supreme Court's decision, which did not include a specific explanation for the refusal.

"The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior," stated Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

"They are greatly benefiting from this counseling. Their grades have gone up, their self-esteem has improved, and their relationships at home are much improved."


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