New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto a bill that would make New Jersey the eighth U.S. state to legalize gay marriage. Photo courtesy Bob Jagendorf

N.J. gay conversion therapy ban challenged in federal court

(RNS) New Jersey's newly enacted ban on gay-to-straight conversion therapy for minors violates a licensed therapist's obligation to "respect the rights of clients to make decisions," according to a federal lawsuit filed by a Christian counselors group and professionals who use the practice.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto a bill that would make New Jersey the eighth U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.

The law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Aug 19, bars any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker or counselor from using therapies to change sexual orientation of children under age 18. Photo courtesy Bob Jagendorf.

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The law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Aug 19, bars any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker or counselor from using therapies to change sexual orientation of children under age 18. Offenders jeopardize their licensed status under the new law, which does not apply to clergy or anyone who is not licensed by the state.

New Jersey is the second state in the nation to ban therapy that purports to change a child's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. California enacted the first ban, but Liberty Counsel, a national religious-based legal and public policy group, filed an injunction it before it took effect earlier this year. A judge overseeing the case heard arguments in April and has not issued a decision.

Liberty Counsel is also representing the parties that filed a challenge against New Jersey's law on Thursday. The plaintiffs are Tara King, a therapist in Brick, N.J.; Ronald Newman, a therapist in Linwood, N.J., the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and the American Association for of Christian Counselors.

According to the lawsuit, the law "will prohibit New Jersey Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists from respecting the rights of clients to make the decisions because the state has already made the decision for every client that may seek counseling from a licensed professional on the issue of sexual orientation."

Therapists are "hopelessly conflicted" between following the law and upholding its professional code of conduct, according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Camden, N.J.

The law also interferes with a therapist's First Amendment rights to free speech, as well as a family's right to informed consent about all of the therapeutic options available to help minors "reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity," according to the lawsuit.

Garden State Equality, a civil rights organization that lobbied for the passage of the therapy ban, vowed today to help defend the law.

“This is no surprise," Garden State Equality Executive Director Troy Stevenson said. "The anti-LGBT groups that support the dangerous practice of sexual orientation change efforts, ‘so-called conversion therapy,' have nothing to lose by filing a lawsuit. We have complete confidence in this legislation, and above all we will defend not only the law, but are dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBT youth to be free of the abuse caused by these discredited highly devastating practices.”

In signing the bill into law, Christie noted many leading health organizations had determined such therapy was ineffective and harmful.

"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," Christie wrote. "I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate."

Spokesmen for the Governor's office and the Attorney General's Office, which defends the state in legal matters, declined to comment on the lawsuit today.




  1. I don’t understand the challenge from religious fundamentalist groups. If an adult (i.e., someone 18 or older) wishes to undergo an unsafe, scientifically invalid procedure, they are still free to do so. All these laws do is protect children. While America is a relatively free society, any sensible person can recognize that those who are psychologically and physically unable to fully take of and make decisions for themselves- which obviously includes children- have to be protected by the community, and in most instances “the community” is going to be represented under the guise of the state.

  2. Good. These confused kids need help during their formative years. The parents should be able to choose what kind of help they need..

  3. Homosexual children are no more confused than any other, it is incredible how those who are anti homosexual will latch on to any and every thing , no matter how discredited and dangerous it is in order to advance there agenda . What these people fail to see is that they are only exposing there own hatred for every body to see . Why is it that some Christians feel they have a right to object to all measures that treat homosexuals as normal human beings . People are entitled to have faith objections to the homo life but they are not entitled to use the state to en force those believes on others . I’m sick and tired of having to defend my religion all the time because the anti homosexual Christians have given us all such a bad name . I am a Christian because I love all my fellow human beings who are all made in Gods image and this includes homosexuals . I view homosexuality as a personal issue between the person and Jesus , I do not believe it is for me to tell others what they need to do in there own lives as it is not me who will have to account to the Lord but the person them selves .

  4. Luke, the real issue involving minors is that parental consent should be the only requirement regarding undergoing treatment. That does not mean that a minor, 17 years old, for instance, should be treated when the therapist sees a conflict between the parents’ wishes for treatment and the wishes of the child.

    In using the power of the state to intervene, Christie is demonstrating–again!– what conservatives find objectionable about him. Do we really want the state–including the federal “state”–intruding even further in people’s lives? Do we not have plenty of examples from the last decade or so of “the state” making a complete mess of most of what it controls?

  5. Chris, I suggest that we have many examples, especially in federal law, where the individual or “the community” is NOT being represented under the guise of the state. What is seen in national politics particulary but also in state and local politics is the enactment of laws and regulations that are not approved of by the public at large. These laws and regulations come about because the legislators and the executives have their own ideas of the nature of government and do not consider themselves beholden to anything written in the federal or state constitution that runs counter to these same ideas.

    This, I submit, is behind the culture wars that have been going on for, likely, longer than you have been alive and is at the heart of the great divide in this country, a divide that is not anything close to an even split.

  6. So the Christian counselors are worried about their first amendment rights. Perhaps Liberty Counsel will see the similarity to the gag orders and state mandated procedures some have placed on other counselors and doctors–in women’s clinics offering abortion services. Perhaps they will defend their first amendment rights as well. But I won’t hold my breath.

  7. Not treating children with an obvious psychological disorder is child abuse.

  8. I grew up knowing I was different from other males, and I believed homosexuality was a sin greater than adultery. I tried prayer, conversion therapy, and marriage. A friend of mine tried electro-shock treatments. Nothing worked. I lived with depression and suicidal thoughts. I finally realized if the Bible is wrong about slavery (it advocates and regulates it), if the Bible is wrong about the earth revolving around the sun and the age of the earth (and it does), then the Bible could be wrong about homosexuality. More to the point, what is described in the Bible is not a loving relationship between equals. It is usually rape. Paul most likely is describing pederasty of the Greeks, still common in his day.
    A Philadelphia couple is guilty of child abuse for only praying for their sick children – leading to their death. The anti-science and misinformed notion that vaccines produce autism is fully discredited. Francis Bacon, a devote Christian in the 16th century advocated for scientific empiricism over both religious and philosophical authoritarianism. We must do the same and use good science, not junk “science” to help us interpret the Scriptures.
    I am now a pastor and in a long-time committed relationship. I have an intimate relationship with God, Jesus, and the Spirit. I am NOT an idolater who hates God (Paul’s description of the CAUSE of whatever it is he is describing in Romans 1 – long at the “therefore.”)
    Finally, before any person throws stones at gay people, walk in my shoes first. When did you *decide* to be straight? You didn’t. And neither did I *decide* to be gay.
    Pastor John

  9. It gets more confusing when it comes to what age any particular state considers someone to be a minor. And the difference in age that that state considers them a minor, as opposed to their age of consent within that state. I’ve posted on this before, for the state of NJ. And it is confusing as to what the laws state about the rights of parents and the rights of minors, especially when a minor decides for themselves as to what direction of therapy they are seeking.

    Governor Christie only stated that such therapy can cause harm, as is all that the APA or the APA (American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association) ever state as well. Thus it is inaccurate to say that “Christie noted many leading health organizations had determined such therapy was ineffective and harmful.” It is only ineffective and harmful to some, not to all. See my blog post at:

  10. Again, we need to be careful as to whether we are referring to identity, orientation, attraction, behavior, or romantic attractions. We can determine our identity, as separate and distinct from our orientation or our attractions. People can decide to be straight in their identity, and they can decide to be straight in their behavior, even though they might be gay in their orientation, or they might be bisexual in their orientation.

  11. I am confused at the thought that any human being living in the 21st century would even consider using conversion therapy. So homosexuality is a physiological disorder? Would that mean heterosexuality is a disorder of any kind? If it isn’t , than I don’t see how the other is any different. You are essentially saying we should get everyone that is “different” and torture them and inflict physical and actual phsycalogical harm until they are “normal”. Even if being gay is a “disorder”, which scientist say is not, doesn’t mean these treatments will work. they’ve proven to make matters worse for people, if matters are bad in the first place. The only people found that have had “success” (which is rare considering most commit sucicide) are just lying to others if not themselves. This and many other contributing factors is why I can’t believe that there is a God. For the most part I agree with Luke and Pastor John. By definition sir, you are a bigot

  12. The sexual orientation therapy is definitely beneficial for children who have been molested by someone of the same-sex and now have a mental rewiring concerning their sexuality. It’s not fair for them to have to grow up as a homosexuals because some scumbag wanted to play with their penis! Maybe you think it’s totally fine to change someone’s sexuality through child molestation and then just tell the child to just “roll with it”, but many parents, including myself, do not. The state should have no say in this area – it should be between a parent and the child.

  13. It’s sort of funny that you would sign your comment as “Pastor John” when you clearly know nothing about the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible does it ever talk about the Earth rotating around the sun. However it does say that the earth is a sphere, which is a pretty long time before Christopher Columbus made that claim; Isaiah 40:22 Says that the earth is sphere. Plus, nowhere in the Bible does it endorse having slaves. If you’re talking about the old Hebrew text, they did had slaves in that culture and society but not because God told them to have slaves. You clearly are no pastor and you really should do a little research before you try bashing a group of individuals that you have no knowledge of whatsoever. -__-

  14. It is a wellknown fact that Homosexual activities are the leading cause of AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other illnesses, whether committed by Catholic or other Priests upon six year old altar boys or anyone else, black or latino or white males on their little kids, girls or boys, black or latino or white male inmates on others in the US Jails or anywhere else. We need these activities to stop if Obamacare is to succeed and the health insurance rates to come down. And also for the eradication of AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other illnesses. Please wake up and accept the truth and stop these unhealthy and unhygienic, unnatural activities.

  15. I agree. These hypocrites Object to abortion, on the pretext: Life is precious. but ok to kill doctors who perform abortion or bomb their clinics. and ok to bomb and kill innocent men, women and children in other countries on false pretexts like WMDs or Chemical Weapons where none existed. With non-consenting Taxpayers money.

  16. “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,”

    Every homosexual that I have known has been plagued with some or all of the above maladies. It seems that being homosexual is much more dangerous to one’s mental health than conversion therapy might be.

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