A South Jersey couple has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Chris Christie for signing a law this summer prohibiting licensed therapists from providing gay-to-straight “conversion” therapy to children, saying it infringes on their rights to free speech, religion and to parent their teenage son “free from unconstitutional government interference.”
The unidentified parents sought conversion therapy on behalf of their 15-year-old son, who began “experiencing gender identity disorder when he was around nine years old,” according to the complaint, filed in federal court in Camden.
The teen has “frequently thought of killing himself because he did not like himself. … He remembers having a bias against the male gender and thinking boys were stupid because his mother talked negatively about his father,” according to the complaint. “He experienced feelings of despair because he believed that he would never be good enough if he remained a boy.”
In 2011, he started meeting with a licensed social worker in New York, who has “helped him tremendously” reduce his homosexual urges. The social worker recommended meeting with a licensed psychotherapist to delve into “the background causes” of his feelings.
The family contacted “one of the premier” conversion licensed therapists, Ronald Newman, to help their son, their attorney Demetrios Stratis of Fair Lawn said, but was told that the governor had signed a bill into law on Aug. 19 banning the practice.
Stratis is also representing the therapist, Newman of Linwood; Tara King, a therapist in Brick; the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality; and the American Association of Christian Counselors in a separate lawsuit against the state challenging the law.
Proponents of the law have said families could still seek conversion therapy from unlicensed counselors, such as clergy members, but the family tried that and had a bad experience, according to the lawsuit. The couple retained an unlicensed Catholic counselor “who did not seem to share the same scholarly view of the issues surrounding sexual orientation change efforts counseling as the many experts in the field.” This counselor only added to the boy’s stress and depression, the complaint said.
New Jersey is the second state to ban the controversial therapy. A nearly identical law in California was upheld on Aug. 29 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Supporters of the ban cite the American Psychological Association and other professional groups that say there is no proof the therapy works and that it may harm children’s perceptions of themselves and lead to depression and anxiety. “Research indicates that family interventions that reduce rejection and increase acceptance of their child and adolescent are helpful,” according to the association’s report on sexual orientation change efforts.
The complaint points out, however, that most of the research is on adults, not children.
Troy Stevenson, executive director for Garden State Equality, a civil rights group that advocated for the law, said his group is “committed to protecting this ban.”
“When we began advocating for this legislation, we anticipated a small but vocal minority would want to continue this horrible and abusive practice. However, every reputable expert in the world has disavowed the practice of sexual orientation change efforts,” Stevenson said. “It is vital that people learn to accept their children for who they are rather than subjecting them to disproven junk-science that does nothing but inflict horrific emotional damage on our youth.”
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Bachmann's Alleged Involvement
In July,gay advocacy group Truth Wins Out released video footage allegedly shot undercover at the Christian-affiliated Minnesota clinic owned by Michele Bachmann and her husband, and claimed to find evidence of conversion therapy being performed on the premises. "Michele Bachmann wants to be in the Oval Office and wants to be the president of the United States," Wayne Besen, "It's important to know what her true beliefs are and what goes on in this clinic."
'Gay Barbarian Horde' Invades Bachmann's Clinic
Last July activists dressed as "gay barbarians" traveled to Bachmann's clinic to protest its alleged "pray the gay away" practices. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/21/michele-bachmanns-glitter-prank_n_906165.html" target="_hplink">A press release issued by the group reads:</a> <blockquote>Today a horde of gay barbarians descended upon Michele and Marcus Bachmann's "pray away the gay" clinic and demanded that Marcus come out and discipline them for their "deviant" behavior. Marcus Bachmann, who conducts "reparative therapy" at the clinic intended to convert homosexuals, has said that gays are "barbarians who need to be disciplined." The horde requested to speak directly with Bachmann and experience some "discipline" for themselves. When Marcus was no where to be found, the barbarians glittered the empty waiting room and reception area while chanting, "You can't pray away the gay -- baby, I was born this way!" The action was organized by the same young man who threw glitter on Newt Gingrich, starting a national trend in political protest of anti-LGBT sentiments from political candidates and campaigns. "Michele and Marcus Bachmann think gay people are barbarians?" asked LGBT activist Nick Espinosa. "I think its clear to everyone who the real barbarians are, based on the Bachmanns' archaic views on LGBT equality."</blockquote>
Gay Conversion Therapy Victim Comes Forward
Earlier this month, "I'm From Driftwood" featured a video interview with Samuel Brinton, who was raised in rural Iowa and subjected to forced Christian conversion therapy. "We then went into the 'Month of Hell,'" Brinton explained. "The 'Month of Hell' consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I'd be electrocuted."
Prominent 'Ex-Gay' Doctor Retracts Claims Made In Key Gay Conversion Therapy Study
This week the psychiatrist who published a controversial 2001 study proclaiming that "highly motivated" gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/robert-spitzer-ex-gay-psychiatrist-retraction_n_1417679.html?ref=gay-voices" target="_hplink">retracted his initial claims.</a> Psychiatrist Bob Spitzer, who had ironically led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, told American Prospect that he now wants to retract his study, while addressing several of the ample criticisms against its findings. "In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct," said the 80-year-old Spitzer, who is now retired and suffering from Parkinson's disease. "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more."
John Smid Discusses 'Praying The Gay Away' With Chris Matthews
The former director of the ex-gay Christian ministry Love in Action <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/20/john-smid-former-ex-gay-minister-sexual-orientation-_n_1022417.html#s423190&title=Gay_Conversion_Therapy" target="_hplink">came forward last October</a> to say that not only that he is gay, but that he believes it is impossible to change one's sexual orientation. Though Smid admitted he did "experience homosexuality" on the show, he arguably stopped short of embracing his sexual orientation. "I would say predominately, I am attracted to men," he said. "At the same time, I've chosen to be married [to a woman] and a lot of people make that choice."
Not Born This Way?
Richard Cohen, director of the International Healing Foundation and author of "Coming Out Straight" and "Gay Children, Straight Parents," believes that people can change. "There is no credible scientific evidence to suggest either a genetic or biologic basis for homosexual desires in men or women," he said. "So people are not born this way...it's always a confounding of many different factors that lead people to experience these desires...people don't choose this, the choice is: do they want to lead that life, or do they want to change?"
Gay To Straight With Prayer?
In an appearance on "Dr. Drew" earlier this year, psychologist Joseph Nicolosi -- a founding member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) -- said he continues to support conversion therapy: "People can change, people have a choice, people should be given a choice," he said. "If a person chooses to exercise his heterosexual potential...we provide that therapy...it doesn't work for all people, but it works for some."
Pat Robertson Advises Father To Seek Conversion Therapy For His Gay Son