On Thursday (September 11), a New Jersey federal appeals court upheld the state’s ban on counseling and therapy services that seek to change sexual orientation in LGBT children.
The unanimous 3-0 vote by a panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that the ban didn’t violate the religious rights or free speech of the counselors who seek to alter the behavior and beliefs of homosexual minors.
Republican Governor Chris Christie signed the ban into law in August of 2013, and the decision made today upholds his decision.
Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith said that the ban lined up with the state’s interest in protecting minors from treatments that are unprofessional or ineffective. He also cited concerns voiced by the American Psychiatric Association and other groups, who link this kind of therapy with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Continuing on, Smith notes that lawmakers can “rely on the empirical judgment of independent professional organizations that possess specialized knowledge and experience… particularly when this community has spoken with such urgency and solidarity.”
For years, homosexuality was legally classified as a mental disorder, but in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association moved to declassify the condition. Still, many Conservative and religious group are against it and believe that sexual orientation can be altered.
Plaintiffs challening the ban included two organizations—theNational Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counselors—and two counselors.
Their lawyer, Mathew Staver, said that they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Laws banning counseling in this area are simply unconstitutional violations of free speech,” Staver said in a statement.
But Hayley Gorenberg, the deputy legal director of Lambda Legal, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of gay and transgender disagrees.
“[This decision]will do a lot of good for young people who are at great risk of harm from unscrupulous or misguided therapists,” she told Huffington Post in an interview. “It validates the state’s strong interest in preventing these snake-oil efforts.”
New Jersey is the second state to ban this kind of therapy—California first instituted the ban in 2012, and their law was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013. In June, the Supreme Court would not disturb this ruling.