Opposition to Conversion Therapy Bill-Waiting for Governor Christie

Bill A3371, the bill prohibiting licensed psychotherapists in New Jersey from providing “conversion therapy” to minors passed in the New Jersey Senate on June 27, 2013. The bill does not affect religious organizations that may still provide “conversion therapy” to minors. While Governor Christie has publicly stated that he does not support “conversion therapy,” the bill is still awaiting his signature.

The Garden State Equality gay rights organization lobbied for the passage of the bill making New Jersey the second state in the country to pass such a law. The executive director of this organization voiced his opinion that the new bill “will save lives and protect our youth.” One of the sponsors of the bill called “conversion therapy” a form on child abuse.

The American Psychological Association (APA) as well as most other national mental health organizations has denounced “conversion” or “reparative” therapy. The APA in 1997 was one of the first mental health organizations to declare that homosexuality and heterosexuality were normal human expressions of sexuality and speak of the lack of scientific evidence to support any assumption that sexual orientation could be changed.

California the only other state in the United States that has passed a ban on “conversion therapy” for minors but is also waiting for a ruling to determine if the hold on the ban will be lifted. The bill was passed on October 2012 and was to be effective as of January 1, 2013. However, the law has yet to be enacted. The Liberty Counsel filed an emergency appeal in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; on behave of the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH) and other proponents of “conversion” therapy to block the law from going into effect. The Federal Appeals Court heard the appeal argues in April 2013 and have yet to issue a final ruling.

In February 2013, State Representative Marko Liias of the state of Washington proposed a new House bill to investigate the effects of “conversion” therapy rather than ban it in the state. One of the stumbling blocks to the California “conversion” therapy ban is that some lawmakers are not convinced of the harmful effects of the therapy. State Representative Marko Liias has recommended having a work group of up to 15 people to evaluate the research that exists regarding the potentially harmful effects of “conversion” therapy.

Senators Deborah Glick and Michael Gianaris of New York state introduced legislation to ban “conversion” therapy in April 2013.