Metro Weekly

Supreme Court allows N.J. gay conversion therapy ban to stand

Highest court's refusal to hear challenge to law mirrors 2014 response to California's therapy ban

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a challenge to a New Jersey law that prohibits the practice of conversion therapy on minors.

Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” involves someone undergoing various therapies aimed at changing their sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene, the law remains in place, in accordance with a ruling last September by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which found that the ban on practicing on minors did not violate the free speech or religious rights of counselors who engage in the practice of conversion therapy.

New Jersey’s ban, which was previously signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie (R), mirrors other bans that have been passed in California and, most recently, the District of Columbia that prohibit licensed therapists from attempting to change minors’ sexual orientations and gender identities. Those who violate the ban can be subject to penalties, such as losing their license. However, the laws do not prevent any minor from talking with a licensed therapist about how best to deal with their feelings about their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor do they apply to religious leaders or unlicensed counselors.

Monday’s decision marks the second time the nation’s highest court has declined to hear a suit seeking to overturn bans on conversion therapy. The court previously let stand California’s ban in June 2014 after declining to hear a challenge to that law. Opponents of the District law have threatened similar action, although no case has been filed. When the bill was heard by the D.C. Council, opponents threatened to use the District’s comprehensive Human Rights Act to challenge the law upon passage, claiming that the prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation also apply to ex-gays, and that the law would actively discriminate against youth who are struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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