Federal Court Upholds New Jersey's Ban on 'Ex-Gay' Therapy

A federal district judge ruled Friday that licensed therapists do not have a constitutional right to practice the scientifically discredited therapy that aims to turn gay people straight.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

November 09 2013 9:08 AM ET

Just like its predecessor in California was in August, New Jersey's ban on so-called ex-gay therapy was just upheld in federal court.

Judge Freda Wolfson of the U.S. District Court in New Jersey issued a ruling Friday declaring that the New Jersey law "restricts neither speech nor religious expression," according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The judge dismissed a legal challenge from the right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel, filed on behalf of therapists who wanted to engage in the scientifically discredited, harmful practices on minors. 

That challenge, Wolfson noted in her ruling, "runs counter to the longstanding principle that a state generally may enact laws rationally regulating professionals, including those providing medicine and mental health services."  

Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the law in August, after California passed similar legislation banning the use of harmful, unscientific "therapy" on minors by licensed therapists and mental health professionals in September 2012.

"Ex-gay therapy," sometimes called reparative therapy by its proponents, has been condemned by every major medical and psychological organization in the country as harmful and dangerous. "There has been no scientifically adequate research that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective," notes the American Psychological Association.  

"This law protects youth from practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental health professional organizations," said NCLR's legal director Shannon Minter, who also represented Garden State Equality in its successful bid to intervene as defendants alongside the state's attorney general. "The court issued a clear and thorough decision explaining that state-licensed therapists do not have a constitutional right to engage in discredited practices that do not improve patients’ health and put young people at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide."

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