A New Jersey couple has filed a lawsuit against Governor Chris Christie for enacting a law recently banning licensed therapists from practicing gay-to-straight sexual orientation “conversion” therapy. New Jersey is the second state in the country, the other being California, to ban licensed therapists from practicing the largely discredited therapy.
The unidentified family is seeking the therapy on behalf of their 15-year-old son who they claim suffers from gender identity disorder. The couple says their son has struggled with unwanted same-sex attractions since he was nine years old.
According to the lawsuit, the teen “frequently thought of killing himself because he did not like himself…He remembers having a bias against the male gender and thinking boys were stupid because his mother talked negatively about his father. He experienced feelings of despair because he believed that he would never be good enough if he remained a boy.
“…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.”
In 2011, a social worker recommended to the teen meet with a psychotherapist who would examine the “background issues” involved with his gender identity disorder. The teen’s parents first sought out conversion therapist Ronald Newman, but their efforts were effectively stopped when their attorney told them it was illegal for licensed therapists to practice conversion therapy in the state.
The parent’s lawsuit alleges that the state is infringing on their freedom of speech and freedom of religion rights by banning the practice. The American Association of Christian Counselors has filed a separate lawsuit challenging the same law.
Proponents for the law point out that unlicensed therapists, like pastors, for example, are still free to practice conversion therapy. The state banned licensed therapists from utilizing the therapy at the recommendation of a number of scientific organizations. The American Psychological Association (APA) says the therapy has never been proven effective. It has, however, been shown to negatively impact patient’s self-esteem while increasing depression and anxiety rates.
In their report on sexual orientation change efforts, the APA says that "research indicates that family interventions that reduce rejection and increase acceptance of their child and adolescent are helpful.”
Readers familiar with conversion therapy will recall the recent closing of Exodus International, a former leading homosexuality conversion organization. After closing in June, the group’s president apologized for the trauma and shame inflicted on patients, while renouncing the idea that homosexuality is “curable.”