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The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the ban on “gay conversion therapy” in New Jersey

— April 17, 2015

The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the ban on “gay conversion therapy” in New Jersey. The ban specifically addresses minors and the ruling states that state officials may forbid treatments that could put minors at risk. Governor Chris Christie signed the law in 2013.

The court dismissed a “John Doe” suit brought by a 15-year-old male and his parents. “Doe” was receiving the controversial “gay-to-straight” therapy from 2011 until the ban went into effect. He wanted to continue. The suit argued that the ban was a violation of their 1st Amendment right to free speech, their religious freedom and their rights as parents to choose Doe’s medical and psychological treatment.

In the opinion, the court wrote, “He [Doe] believes (the treatment) has helped him in that he has stopped trying to be feminine, has reduced his same-sex attractions, has an improved relationship with his father, and has rid himself of his feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide.” Doe insisted that the sessions were helping him in positive ways and that he and his parents believed homosexuality to be sinful.

The court, acting in a human and logical manner, rejected these arguments. Quoting a study conducted by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it wrote, “There is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness.” This study was used by the stat Legislature to justify the law in the first place.

Further, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and other respectable medical associations hold that “conversion therapy” not only doesn’t work, it can be psychologically damaging. The APA said it could cause “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.”

The court also held that the New Jersey ban in no way infringes on the rights of parents and minors. The state’s interest in protecting minors prevails. “The fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a … mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful.”

The ban’s sponsor, Tim Eustace, D-Maywood, said this ridiculous “therapy” was a big enough problem in New Jersey that many “people have been emotionally scarred, some committed suicide – there’s a real reason to put a stop to this. Right now it’s just an insidious form of child abuse and people are making money off of it.”

This is the second time the 3rd Circuit smacked down a challenge to the ban. In September 2014, the court held that the ban did not infringe upon the rights of licensed professionals to free speech.

New Jersey is only the second state to ban licensed professionals from engaging in this backwards excuse for “therapy.” California was the first and D.C. also bans it. President Obama has called for a national ban. One can only hope it comes to pass.

This is yet another case of “religious freedom” being used to attempt to deny basic human rights to an unprotected class of citizen. As a gay man, I can tell you that becoming aware of my true nature in my middle teens was an ordeal fraught with shame, fear, terror and even thoughts of suicide. All this before I ever told another living soul.

I cannot imagine the torture of this so-called “therapy.” The feelings of “wrongness” inspired by a lifetime of bigoted societal programming made the experience hard enough to bear. In fact, I had actually planned my suicide down to the method and what the note would say. I made myself a deal: learn about being gay and give it six months. If I discovered it wasn’t so bad, great; if not, hello dirt nap. I was 16-years-old.

All the science and theology in the world cannot convince me that being gay is a choice. My emotional and sexual attractions have never included females; for me, this is as natural as breathing. I suspect, if John Doe survives to adulthood that he will eventually figure this out. I hope he does both. Frankly and sadly, I’m not so sure he will. It makes me wonder what his parents will think if he ends up committing suicide because they couldn’t love and accept him.

Will it be, “He’s ‘Home’ with Jesus now” or some other comforting saying that will allow them self-absolution for their complicity in his death? Or, will they realize that the God they so steadfastly worship is supposed to be all about love? In fact, the very Book they hold so dear quotes Jesus as saying, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”



Appeals court upholds N.J. ban on ‘gay conversion therapy’

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