On Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that prohibits licensed therapists from providing gay conversion therapy to minors, declaring that being "lesbian, gay or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency or shortcoming." Conservative groups are planning to sue the state, claiming the bill violates First Amendment rights.
New Jersey is the second state to ban the practice, which aims to change gay people's sexual orientation. Last year, California adopted a similar law banning gay conversion therapy—which has been proven to not only be ineffective, but also psychologically damaging—but a lawsuit from The Liberty Counsel (a law firm/ministry in defense of "Christian religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family" that is affiliated with Jerry Falwell's Liberty University) has prevented it from taking effect, and the legislation is currently on hold.
The Liberty Counsel has already vowed that it will do the same to New Jersey, saying the ban is a violation of free speech.
It goes far beyond anything in existence regards to regulating professional speech. Like we did in California, we will argue that this violates counselors' First Amendment rights, and patients' and parents' rights to receive information.
But Christie—who opposes same-sex marriage—believes firmly in the bill:
[O]n issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards…The American Psychological Assn. 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.
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.
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