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New Jersey's Ban on Reparative Therapy for Minors Upheld
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/09/13
Last updated on: 11/09/13
 
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High School senior Jacob Rudolph: "I am not broken. I am not confused. I do not need to be fixed."

On November 8, 2013, U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey's newly enacted ban on reparative therapy, or attempts to change sexual orientation, for minors. Judge Wolfson rejected the arguments that the law infringes free speech or the exercise of religion or the rights of minors to self-determination or the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.

As Susan K. Livio reports in the Star-Ledger, the lawsuit, known as King v. Christie, was filed days after Governor Christie signed the law in August 2013 on behalf of therapist Tara King, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), and the American Association of Christian Counselors, who argued that the law infringed on their responsibility to their clients who sought the therapy.

Judge Wolfson also dismissed a separate lawsuit filed by a 15-year-old boy and his parents who claimed that the law violates the teenager's "right to self-determination and the parents' fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children."

The law prohibits any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor from using sexual orientation change efforts with a children under age 18. It does not apply to clergy or anyone who is not licensed by the state.

New Jersey is the second state to prohibit therapy that purports to change a child's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. California enacted the first ban, which was recently upheld by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality and an intervenor in the lawsuit, hailed Judge Wolfson's decision. "The court's decision today is a huge victory for New Jersey youth. This law will save lives by protecting young people them from these horrible and damaging practices," he said.

Thanks to the Joe.My.God blog, Judge Wolfson's decision may be found here.

When Governor Christie signed the bill into law in August 2013, he issued a "signing statement" in which he said that "on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards. The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts."

He added, "I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate. Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law."

The reparative therapy movement is rooted in the work of 1960s psychologists such as Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides, who claimed that homosexuality was both pathological and susceptible to change. When their position was repudiated by the 1973 decision of the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the category of "illness," they launched a counter-offensive against the views of the psychological and psychiatric establishment.

In 1992, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) was established. Led by Joseph Nicolosi and Charles Socarides, and funded largely by right-wing religious and political organizations, NARTH is self-described as "a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to affirming a complementary, male-female model of gender and sexuality." It essentially espouses the view of homosexuality that was dominant in the 1950s and 1960s: that a homosexual "preference" results from a developmental problem, especially a child's failure to identify properly with adult figures of the same gender.

On March 19, 2013, in hearings on the bill prohibiting reparative therapy for minors, Parsippany, New Jersey high school senior Jacob Rudolph delivered moving testimony to the Health Committee of the New Jersey Senate. Rudolph said, "I am not broken. I am not confused. I do not need to be fixed."

The video below is of Rudolph's speech before the Senate Health Committee on March 19, 2013.

 
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