One year after New Jersey passed a law banning antigay conversion therapy, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the ban.
On July 31, U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson dismissed a challenge to New Jersey’s conversion-therapy bill that had been filed by a South Jersey teen and his parents, who claimed the bill hinders their son’s “right to self-determination” and their parenting abilities. The plaintiffs also argued that it interferes with their freedom of religion.
Wolfson wrote that the bill “does not suppress, target or single out the practice of any religion because of religious conduct.”
The law prevents licensed therapists, psychologists, social workers and counselors from administering therapies that seek to change one’s sexual orientation. It does not extend to clergy.
Wolfson also noted that the bill does not interfere with the plaintiffs’ ability to parent their child.
“Surely, the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific medical or mental-health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful or ineffective,” she wrote.
The New Jersey legislature passed the bill two weeks after Exodus International, a Christian ministry dedicated to conversion therapy, closed. The following week, Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law, making New Jersey the second state in the country to ban conversion therapy.
Last fall, Wolfson dismissed a challenge to the law from two New Jersey therapists, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counselors. The plaintiffs argued that the bill violated their freedom of religion and right to free speech.
In that case, Wolfson noted that the argument for free speech was “largely irrelevant” and said the law does not prevent practicing professionals from preaching the value of sexual orientation-change efforts.
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