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U.S. Supreme Court Denies Review of California Conversion Therapy Ban

August 31, 2014 | Posted In Family Law

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent choice to not review a ruling that upholds the ban on gay conversion therapy in California, and family lawyers in New Jersey say that this decision may affect our state, which has a similar ban in place. Currently, two constitutional challenges have been filed against the New Jersey statute, mainly in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision. Now that they have chosen not to review, these challenges may be in jeopardy. 

Last year, in Pickup v. Brown, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the California law—which prohibits licensed mental health providers from participating in “sexual-orientation change efforts” with a minor patient—is not in violation of the fundamental rights of parents, the right to freedom of speech for practitioners or minor patients, and is not vague or over-broad in language. In July, the Supreme Court justices denied the writ seeking judicial review on the case. 

The New Jersey law A-3371, like California’s, bans therapists and counselors from providing treatment to change a minor’s professed sexual orientation. Anyone who is licensed under state law to provide counseling is included in the ban, along with social workers, marriage and family counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. 

Almost immediately after the bill had passed into law, challenges were filed in New Jersey, headed up by therapists and parents who want gay conversion therapy to be provided to their clients and children. In King v. Christie, mental health professionals, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the 50,000 New Jersey members of the American Association of Christian Counselors, who want to continue to counsel clients with sexual-orientation struggles using conversion therapy claimed that the ban is unconstitutional, and in violation of their rights as licensed professionals. 

The second case, Doe v. Christie, was filed by parents “Jack and Jane Doe,” who want to seek conversion therapy as a treatment plan for their 15-year-old son with homosexual tendencies. “John” started conversion therapy in 2011, before the ban was enacted, and has experienced no negative side effects. His parents claimed that the therapy has helped Jack work out his psychological distress over his unwanted same-sex attractions, and discontinuing it would only hurt him. Their challenge claims that the ban “denies [Jack]...self-determination in the exercise of…religious and moral values…and [the] right to receive counseling consistent with those values.” 

Family lawyers in New Jersey say that these challenges may be struck down for good, based on the Supreme Court’s decision. None of the court judges had enough conviction that California’s law was unconstitutional to warrant further review, and the New Jersey law is so similar that it may receive the same consideration from state judges and appellate divisions. 

Leading mental health organizations across the country, including the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, have renounced conversion therapy, sometimes known as “reparative therapy,” for its negative effects on minors being treated. This type of therapy has been linked to resulting side effects of depression, suicide, and substance abuse, and all of these risks are noted in both California’s and New Jersey’s legislative bans. 

The family lawyers at New Jersey firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA represent parents and children throughout the state. If you have questions concerning conversion therapy and other laws regarding family treatment and options, contact an HCK attorney today. 

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