No Gay-Conversion Therapy Rights in N.J.
(CN) - A New Jersey law prohibiting parents from getting their teenage son gay-conversion therapy does not violate their constitutional rights, a federal judge ruled.
Gov. Chris Christie signed Assembly Bill No. A3371 into law on Aug. 19, 2013, to prohibit state licensed professional counselors from treating children and teens using "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE), more commonly known as "gay-conversion therapy."
The statute says the methods rebut "fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes."
Days after A3371 was signed into law, National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and the American Association of Christian Counselors and two therapists, individually and on behalf of their patients, challenged the law by suing Christie.
"A3371 denies or severely impairs plaintiffs' clients and all minors their right to self-determination [and] their right to prioritize their religious and moral values," they claimed.
Parents Jane and Jack Doe and their son, John, 15, later sued Christie with the help of the same lawyers last fall, alleging the law may cause their son to "regress" into homosexuality.
The parents say they noticed John began to play with female dolls and toys when he was 5, and was "particularly obsessed" with Ariel, The Little Mermaid, much to his father's dismay.
Indeed, John's mother frequently fought with her husband for "criticizing [their son] for exhibiting female characteristics, expressions, and mannerisms," according to the complaint.
John "remembers having a bias against the male gender and thinking that boys were stupid because his mother talked negatively about his father," the plaintiffs claim.
The child also tried "to dress up in princess clothes" when he was 10, and he later began secretly shaving his armpits and pubic hair to appear more feminine, the complaint states.
When John began to feel sexually attracted to men and suicidal around the age of 12, his parents contacted NARTH and were referred to a licensed SOCE specialist, the lawsuit says.
Since then, John's same-sex attractions have dropped from 8 out of 10 to 3 out of 10, and he no longer has suicidal thoughts or tries to sound like a girl, the Does say.
The family thus seeks an injunction preventing enforcement of A3371 and to declare it unconstitutional for violating freedom of speech and religion, as well as basic parental rights.
U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson fully dismissed NARTH's complaint about a week later on Nov. 8, upholding the constitutionality of A3371 as to the therapist-plaintiffs.
Wolfson also let LGBT rights group Garden State Equality, the state's largest civil rights organization, intervene as a defendant in the therapists' suit.
The court stayed the Does' suit on March 28, until the Supreme Court upheld the 9th Circuit's decision in a similar case, Pickup v. Brown, that parents do not have the right to choose a specific type of provider for a health treatment that the state has deemed harmful.
Relying in part on her earlier ruling in the therapists' suit, Wolfson let Garden State Equality intervene in the Does' suit and dismissed their complaint Wednesday, finding that A3371 does not infringe on any recognized parental right.
"A3371 does not implicate plaintiffs' free speech rights because the statute (i) does not regulate speech, directly or indirectly, but rather only regulates a mental health procedure performed by licensed counselors or therapists, and (ii) does not prevent the receipt of information regarding SOCE outside the counseling or therapy setting," Wolfson wrote, tossing the claim that the law violates the Does' right to receive information (emphasis in original).
The free exercise claim failed based on Wolfson's earlier ruling, as well, though the Does want to receive SOCE, whereas the therapists wanted to provide it, the judge held.