Supreme Court may challenge NJ Conversion Therapy ban

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Rainbow circle with family and a child

Garden State Equality said they will defend the law in court

The Supreme Court of the United States may allow a challenge to New Jersey’s ban on anti-LGBT conversion therapy. The ban was enacted in 2013. It prohibits licensed therapists in New Jersey from engaging in therapies that work to change a child’s gender identity or sexual orientation from gay to straight.

The Supreme Court hasn’t agreed to hear the case, or green lit the case just yet. “Liberty Counsel has filed with the Court,” said Jon Oliveira, Director of Communications and Membership at Garden State Equality. “But it’s possible the Court may deny cert and refuse to hear the case. Liberty Counsel, however, is feeling emboldened given recent rulings under the new Court makeup, hence their renewed push. We aren’t taking it lightly.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling in a California case last year has given Liberty Council, a religious law organization, a chance to prove that New Jerseys law violates the freedom of speech of therapists who believe conversion therapy works. The ruling was against a California law requiring crisis centers to tell pregnant women about the availability of publicly funded resources such as family planning services and abortions. SCOTUS ruled that the law violated the First Amendment rights of the pregnancy center and its employees, who may oppose abortion.

Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino
Christian Fuscarino at Garden State Equality said they will defend the law to protect… “children from this dangerous, destructive, and discredited malpractice.”

“California cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the 5-4 majority opinion. He called the requirement for unlicensed centers “unjustified and unduly burdensome.”

Shortly after the Supreme Court green lit the challenge to the New Jersey law, Garden State Equality reacted by mounting a legal strike team according to an urgent email sent to members. GSE’s Executive Director Christian Fuscarino said they will defend the law to protect… “children from this dangerous, destructive, and discredited malpractice.”

This may affect bans in over a dozen other states plus the District of Columbia 

The Liberty Counsel filed the petition to the high court on February 11, 2019. If the Court takes it, it could mean striking down New Jersey’s conversion therapy ban. It may also affect bans in over a dozen other states plus the District of Columbia. Or the Court could justy decline, leaving those laws intact. The Liberty Counsel petitioned SCOTUS to challenge New Jerseys ban in 2015, which the Court declined to hear at that time.

“This is government interfering with the private counseling relationship… without considering facts and individual people,” said Liberty Council’s Mat Staver. The anti-LGBT group also represented the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which prevailed in the California case. “We have clients in New Jersey and other places that have been affected by this decision,” Staver said. “This is a fundamental violation of autonomy. There is no other area of counseling where this happens.”

Six years ago, when then-Governor Chris Christie put New Jerseys conversion therapy ban in effect, he cited findings from the American Psychological Association. The APA concluded, “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.”

“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,” Christie wrote in his signing statement.