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Let the Litigation Begin: NJ Conversion Therapy Ban Challenged

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on August 28, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On Monday, August 19th, New Jersey became the second state in the Union to ban gay conversion therapy for minors. And a mere three days later, on August, 22, New Jersey became the second state in the Union to have the law challenged by Liberty Counsel, reports The Star Ledger.

The new law, AA3371 prevents NJ licensed social workers, therapists and psychologists from practicing gay conversion therapy on children under the age of 18. Continuing such practices on children could result in professionals losing their license, though clergy and non-NJ licensed professionals are not subject to the law.

Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law on August 19th, and wrote:

The American Psychological Association has found that 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.

Liberty Counsel, a group whose stated purpose is "advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family," filed a 46-page claim seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and nominal damages in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

According to The Star Ledger, Matt Staver, Liberty Counsel chairman and founder stated:

The New Jersey governor is putting himself in every counseling room, dictating what kind of counseling clients can receive....This bill provides a slippery slope of government infringing upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs.

A similar law in California has not yet gone into effect, pending a decision on its constitutionality, reports the Los Angeles Times.

With the growing momentum of the movement for LGTB rights, it's likely more states will follow with similar enactments. And with each law, there will most certainly be a challenge on First Amendment grounds. This may not be Supreme Court material yet, but it only seems like a matter of time.

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