A federal judge has ruled that banning so-called "ex-gay" therapy for minors does not violate the First Amendment rights of parents or their children.
Last year New Jersey banned the practice of so-called "reparative," "gay conversion," or "ex-gay" therapies for use on minors. One family sued in federal court, arguing the ban violated their First Amendment rights of free speech and the practice of religion. At the time, NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher claimed the ban "strips religious people of equal rights."
U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson on Thursday disagreed.
Court documents state that "Tara King Ed.D. and Ronald Newman, Ph.D., who are licensed therapists, as well as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality ("NARTH") and the American Association of Christian Counselors ("AACC")," filed the lawsuit in conjunction with the parents, named only as John and Jane Doe.
"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," Courthouse News Service reports.
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.
LGBT rights organization Garden State Equality successfully joined the suit as a defendant.
Judge Wolfson ruled that the New Jersey law does not violate free speech rights because it "does not regulate speech, directly or indirectly, but rather only regulates a mental health procedure performed by licensed counselors or therapists."
She also called ex-gay therapy "pseudo-science."
"Surely it is undisputed that a state has the power to regulate not only medical and mental health treatments deemed harmful, but also those that are ineffective or that are based not on medical or scientific principles but, instead, on pseudo-science."
Noting that "the state has a compelling interest in protecting children, and has broad authority to do so," Wolfson wrote that "the Ninth Circuitâ€”in one of the few decisions that speaks directly to this issueâ€”has concluded that 'the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific type of provider for a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful.'"
The judge concluded that "the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful or ineffective. To find otherwise would create unimaginable and unintentional consequences."
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