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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 23 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 34
New Jersey bans 'conversion therapy' - Liberty Counsel sues to keep it, citing parental rights
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New Jersey bans 'conversion therapy' - Liberty Counsel sues to keep it, citing parental rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

New Jersey this week became the second state, after California, to ban so-called 'conversion therapy' for minors, a practice that claims to 'cure' same-sex attractions and make Gay people straight, but the right-wing Liberty Counsel has filed suit to overturn the ban.

Signed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on August 19, the new law states explicitly that being 'Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming,' and it bans licensed therapists from providing Gay-to-straight conversion therapy to children under age 18.

GOV: 'RELUCTANT' STEP
Christie, a Republican and a Roman Catholic, vetoed a 2012 bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry in his state, but in the signing note attached to the conversion therapy bill he said he has 'always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual.'

The governor also said the psychological health risks of trying to change a child's sexual orientation, as identified by the American Psychological Association, outweigh concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice.

'Government should tread carefully into this area,' he said in the note, 'and I do so here reluctantly.'

'However, I also believe that on the issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,' Christie said, citing a litany of potential ill effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression and suicide. 'I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.'

ACTIVISTS APPLAUD
LGBT rights activists applauded the ban but reminded Christie that marriage equality needs to be on the state's political agenda.

'There is no greater achievement than helping to stop the abuse of our youth,' Troy Stevenson of LGBT rights group Garden State Equality said in a statement immediately after the signing.

'It will protect young people from being abused by those they should trust the most, their parents and their doctors.'

But, Stevenson continued, 'it is our truest hope that the governor will realize, as the majority of the legislature and a super-majority of the pubic have realized, that the best way to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth are protected from the abuse of being ostracized is to provide them with equality.'

BUT ... SANDUSKY!
Some social conservatives framed the debate as a parental rights issue, saying a ban on the therapy would limit the ability of parents to do what they think is best for their children. Liberty Counsel said that would be the basis for their suit to overturn the law.

'This bill is so broad that parents would be prohibited from seeking help for their son who developed unwanted same-sex attractions after being molested by the likes of Jerry Sandusky,' Liberty Counsel chair Mat Staver said in a statement on August 19. 'Counselors would only be allowed to affirm these unwanted feelings as good and normal. This is absurd and dangerous. This law would inflict serious damage to children, parents, and counselors.'

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed his state's ban on conversion therapy into law in October 2012, but two months later a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law pending a decision on its constitutionality.

The suit filed to block the California law alleges that it violates the free-speech rights of therapists.

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