LYNCHBURG — A Christian legal organization states that it plans to file a lawsuit against New Jersey officials in an effort to block the enforcement of a new law that bars therapists and counselors from assisting youth in turning away from their homosexual inclinations.
As previously reported, reiterating his belief that homosexuality is “not a sin,” the Republican governor of New Jersey signed a bill into law on Monday that bans the use of conversion or reparative therapy, or to otherwise help minors who are struggling with homosexual feelings to overcome their temptations.
Governor Chris Christie’s office released a statement during the day outlining that Assembly Bill 3371 had been signed into law following its passage in both state houses in June.
Text of the bill notes that the law bans “the practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.” However, the regulation does not apply to counseling that seeks to affirm homosexual emotions or behaviors.
“[This bill] shall not include counseling for a person seeking to transition from one gender to another, or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a person or facilitates a person’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and does not seek to change sexual orientation,” it explains.
In signing the bill, Christie attached a personal statement explaining that while he wants to protect the interests of parents whose children struggle with homosexuality, he believes that efforts to help youth fight their inclinations can be harmful.
“At the outset of this debate, I expressed my concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children. I still have those concerns,” he wrote. “Government should tread carefully into this area, and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind.”
“However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,” Christie continued. “The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.”
“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,” he said.
However, Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal organization in Lynchburg, Virginia, states that the legislation “will force counselors to violate ethical codes” and unfairly bars families from receiving the counseling if desired. Therefore, the organization vows to file a lawsuit challenging the new law.
“The New Jersey governor is putting himself in every counseling room, dictating what kind of counseling clients can receive,” founder and chairman Mat Staver outlined in a news release this week. “This bill provides a slippery slope of government infringing upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs.”
“This bill is so broad that parents would be prohibited from seeking help for their son who developed unwanted same-sex attractions after being molested by the likes of Jerry Sandusky,” he continued. “Counselors would only be allowed to affirm these unwanted feelings as good and normal. This is absurd and dangerous. This law would inflict serious damage to children, parents, and counselors.”
Liberty Counsel is also fighting an almost identical law that was passed earlier this year in California, where it successfully obtained an injunction against the restriction while the case moves forward in court.