New Jersey is poised to become the second state to ban “gay conversion” therapy for adolescents. The New Jersey Assembly voted Monday 56-14 to outlaw the practice, and now is waiting on the Senate’s Thursday vote.
According to Reuters, the bill will likely pass the Senate as well, and Governor Chris Christie, though mute about the subject since Monday, will likely sign the bill into law. Christie said in March that he disapproves of psychiatrists convincing gay teens to convert back to straight.
California was the first to ban the practice, but the law is currently on hold and pending a federal appeal. California is also waiting on the much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 legalizing gay marriage.
The bill will make it illegal for therapists or social workers to try and convince gay adolescents under 18 to convert back to straight. The fear surrounding conversion therapy is that it does more harm to already conflicted teenagers, who are often forced into therapy by their parents.
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"Those who promote such programs advocate that gay and lesbian people are somehow "broken" and need fixing, which is not the case," said Ross Murray, spokesman for GLAAD, a gay rights group.
The bill specifically cites studies published by the American Psychiatric Association that show an individual’s sexual orientation is determined at birth, and not necessarily a choice.
"The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient," the bill reads.
Opponents, however, believe that the studies are misleading and flawed.
"There's nothing that shows that talk therapy is harmful," said John Tomicki of the League of American Families.
The vote on the bill follows only one week after major Christian group Exodus International, known for advocating conversion therapy, closed its doors. The group was affiliated with about 260 ministries across North America and has been operating since 1976.