NJ’s ban on conversion therapy challenged by religious lawsuit
For almost six years New Jersey has banned what is known as gay conversion therapy — the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.
A group that files lawsuits based on evangelical Christian values is challenging the ban, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn it.
Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said the conversion ban should be lifted because it interferes with the doctor-patient, counselor–client relationship.
He said the goal of conversion counseling therapy is "to deal with underlying issues or stresses that they have in their life, get under control certain desires or behaviors or identity issues.”
Staver insisted conversion therapy is nothing more than talk therapy.
“Two people sitting down in a room talking through issues with the client, trying to reach a desired result. The government has no business interfering in the privacy of a counseling room," he said.
But Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, said the ban is vital because conversion therapy is dangerous and has been widely discredited.
“It has been rejected by every major medical and psychiatric association in the country for decades,” he said, pointing to research showing that the therapy leads to patients being eight times more likely to commit suicide and six times more likely to report high levels of depression.
“It does not belong in any state in our country or anywhere in the world," he said.
He described conversion therapy as “child abuse” and said the group that filed the lawsuit has been criticized for its anti-gay positions.
The ban on conversion therapy was passed in New Jersey in 2013 by the Legislature with a veto-proof majority. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed it into law.
Staver insists conversion therapy should be allowed.
“The government has no idea about what goes on in a counseling session and should not regulate what a client is able to ask or the kind of counsel the client is able to receive.”
But Fuscarino said the issue is not about what the government knows about a counseling session.
“We are long past the point in telling people to hide who they are and who they love, and I’m confident the New Jersey community stands with this ban still today.”