A federal appeals court Thursday upheld New Jersey's law that prevents mental-health professionals from administering conversion therapy to minors, or the practice of attempting to change one's sexual orientation.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the law, put into place last year, is not a violation of freedom of religion, which was argued by the coalition of anti-LGBT groups that challenged it. A lower-court judge upheld the measure, prompting the groups to appeal and leading to Thursday's ruling.
Judge D. Brooks Smith, who wrote the panel's opinion, noted that sexual-orientation change efforts have been condemned "over the last few decades [by] a number of well-known, reputable, professional and scientific organizations," which have expressed "serious concerns about its potential to inflict harm." The judge went on to note that such organizations "have also concluded that there is no credible evidence that SOCE counseling is effective.”
National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter said the ruling "means that New Jersey youth will continue being protected from cruel and damaging practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental-health professional organizations. 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.”
Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the measure into law last August, making New Jersey only the second state int he nation, after California, to adopt such a law. Similar bills have been introduced to both the Pennsylvania House and Senate but have yet to progress.