A US court unanimously upheld New Jersey’s ban on ‘anti-gay’ therapy for teenagers.
A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled today (11 September) that the east coast state’s law, prohibiting therapists from using conversion counseling with people under 18, does not violate free speech rights.
According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a civil rights organization, Assembly Bill A3371 prohibits licensed therapists from treating minor patients with ‘sexual orientation change efforts [SOCE], which the law defines as the practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.’
The court wrote, in part, that SOCE has been condemned as harmful over the past decades by professional and scientific organizations.
‘…[M]any such organizations have also concluded that there is no credible evidence that SOCE counseling is effective,’ the court continued.
As reported by Yahoo News, the plaintiffs in the case are two counselors, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and the American Association of Christian Counselors.
‘Laws banning counseling in this area are simply unconstitutional violations of free speech,’ Mathew Staver, the plaintiffs’ lawyer and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said to Yahoo.
He promised an appeal to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court.
The state’s attorney general and Garden State Equality, a local LGBTI rights group, defended the law in court. The NCLR argued on behalf of GSE.
‘No one should subject minors to conversion therapy—least of all state-licensed clinicians responsible for the care and well-being of their patients,’ Andrea Bowen, GSE’s executive director, said in a statement.
Shannon Minter, NCLR’s legal director, echoed Bowen.
‘The court of appeals’ ruling makes clear that state-licensed therapists do not have a constitutional right to engage in discredited practices that offer no health benefits and put LGBT youth at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide,’ Minter said in a release.
Last month, a federal court dismissed the case of an unnamed New Jersey couple who wishes to use conversion therapy on their 15-year-old son.