A federal judge in New Jersey last week upheld the state’s new ban on therapy that seeks to change a minor’s sexual orientation.
U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson on Nov. 8 dismissed a challenge by two New Jersey therapists and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counselors. The plaintiffs contended that the new law, which prevents mental-health professionals from employing therapy intended to change the sexual orientation of a patient under age 18, violates their rights to free speech and freedom of religion.
In her ruling, Wolfson noted that the law does not prevent professionals from opining about the appropriateness or efficacy of sexual-orientation change efforts, either in a public or private setting, rendering the free-speech claim “largely irrelevant.”
The law applies to licensed therapists, psychologists, social workers and counselors, with an exemption for clergy.
The New Jersey legislature approved the measure in June, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed it into law in August. New Jersey is only the second state in the nation to adopt such a law, after California did so in 2012.
This past summer, an appellate court in California upheld that state’s law against two separate legal challenges. The law’s implementation had previously been delayed pending the court ruling.
Another legal challenge, filed earlier this month by the parents of a teenage boy from South Jersey who claim the law interferes with their son’s “right to self-determination” and their own ability to parent, is still pending.