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Supreme Court rejects appeal of gay conversion therapy ban

Supreme Court rejects appeal of gay conversion therapy ban
© Greg Nash

The Supreme Court has decided not to consider New Jersey’s ban on gay conversion therapy.

The high court rejected a case Monday challenging a law Gov. Chris Christie (R) passed in August 2013 prohibiting state-licensed counselors from offering therapy services that try to change a minor’s sexual orientation. 

Licensed therapists Tara King and Ronald Newman appealed the New Jersey Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold the state ban. They argue New Jersey’s law violates their state and federal rights to free speech and freedom of religion under the First Amendment.

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On behalf of their minor clients, King and Newman further argued that New Jersey’s law interferes with clients' rights to determine their own sexual identity and parents' fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children.

In the opinion, Judge Freda Wolfson said the New Jersey law regulates conduct, not speech. There is “no indication in the record that religion was a motivating factor for passing the law,” she added.

“From its plain language, the law does not seek to target or burden religious practices or beliefs,” she wrote. “Rather, it bars all licensed mental health providers from engaging in [conversion therapy] with minors, regardless of whether that provider or the minor seeking [conversion therapy] is motivated by religion or motivated by any other purpose.”

New Jersey is the second state in the nation, following California, to pass such a law. The District of Columbia has also passed similar legislation.

The law explicitly says being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency or shortcoming, something major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researchers have recognized for nearly 40 years.

Efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation pose critical health risks, New Jersey argues, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicide, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and a feeling of being dehumanized.

Christie, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016, has long maintained that he believes homosexuals are born that way and that it is not a sin.

Last month, President Obama called for the end of conversion therapies for gay, lesbian and transgender youth, and House Democrats introduced a resolution calling on states to ban the practice.