A ban on performing gay-conversion therapy on children in the state of New Jersey doesn’t violate the freedom of speech or religious rights of licensed counselors, a federal judge ruled.
The law prohibiting gay-conversion therapy for children and teens was signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Aug. 19.
The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, the American Association of Christian Counselors, and two therapists, Tara King and Ronald Newman, sued New Jersey on behalf of their patients.
"By preventing minors from ... seeking to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, or identities through counseling such as sexual orientation change efforts, A3371 denies or severely impairs plaintiffs' clients and all minors their right to self-determination, their right to prioritize their religious and moral values, and their right to receive effective counseling consistent with those values," the suit stated.
U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson ruled that "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE) are not protected by the first and fourteenth amendments because it "is not a means of communication to express any particular viewpoint; rather, it is a means of treatment intended to bring about a change in the mental health and psyche of the client who desires and seeks out such a change."
The complaint was dismissed in full.
Wolfson said it’s not important whether SOCE does harm or good.
She added that "'counseling' is not entitled to special constitutional protection merely because it is primarily carried out through talk therapy."
The New Jersey statute is not overly broad or vague. "Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming," it says. "The major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researchers in the U.S. have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years."
Legislators argued that "minors who experience family rejection based on their sexual orientation face especially serious health risks” and "such directed efforts [at changing sexual orientation] are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes."