Calling New Jersey a “progressive place,” that tackles “public health and mental health…[as] big issues,” state Assemblyman John Burzichelli, from Paulsboro, denounced the practice of conversion therapy for homosexual youth. Along with openly gay Assemblyman Timothy Eustace of Bergen County, Burzichelli pledged to support an Assembly bill that seeks to ban therapy and counseling designed to change the sexual orientation of a minor. If it passes, the bill would make New Jersey one of two states to enact such a ban, New Jersey family lawyers say.
The bill, A3371, is backed by research conducted by the American Psychological Association, after people reported that conversion therapy actually harmed them rather than proved helpful. Clinton Anderson, director of the APA office of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender concerns, said that research found conversion therapy to contribute to a lack of self-esteem in homosexual teens. Counselors encouraged change based on faith and self-motivation, and when teens could not adapt to a heterosexual lifestyle, they often blamed themselves for their lack of faith. Failure to change often led to “depression, anxiety, and more distress” over their homosexuality.
California was the first state to introduce a ban on conversion therapy as detrimental for minors. Burzichelli expressed a similar opinion—conversion therapists charge a fee to change a person’s sexual orientation, which has yet to be proven as a useful or productive enterprise. New Jersey family lawyers hope that the bill will prevent minors from being scammed or taken advantage of, and will promote a healthy self-image for teens struggling with their sexuality.
Adults who attempt to change their lifestyle make a decision to change that is different from the tactics used by conversion therapy, according to APA research. Minors are susceptible to persuasion, and a conversion therapist can easily use that to a teen’s detriment. Motivating young adults to change orientation at the time that they are expected to explore their senses of self and determine who they are as individuals could subject young minds to self-doubt and unnecessary confusion.
The New Jersey family lawyers at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA stress the importance of protecting the rights of minors, and will be monitoring the progress of this bill and the changes it could effect in state legislature.