CAMDEN — The parents of a homosexual teenager who also struggles with gender identity issues have filed a lawsuit against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in an effort to overturn a law that bars their son from obtaining professional help.
As previously reported, while reiterating his belief that homosexuality is “not a sin,” the Republican governor signed a bill into law in August that bans the use of conversion or reparative therapy, or to otherwise help minors who are struggling with homosexual feelings to overcome their temptations.
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.
But parents of a 15-year-old New Jersey resident state that the law violates their constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of religion. They also assert that the ban violates the 14th Amendment right to equal protection in that it permits counseling to affirm the homosexual lifestyle, but bars counseling to break free from it.
“[The unnamed teen] has a sincerely held religious belief and conviction that homosexuality is wrong and immoral, and he wanted to address that value conflict because his unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion are contrary to the fundamental religious values that he holds,” the lawsuit filed last week in a Camden court outlines.
The teen has contemplated suicide because of his struggles, the parents state.
Attorney Demetrios Stratis told reporters that he believes the law, which bars the teen from obtaining professional help, was based on faulty conclusions reached by the American Psychological Association (APA).
“The legislature, in enacting this legislation, relied on reports that this was harmful,” Stratis explained. “We believe that the literature and reports are not accurate and what the legislation relied on is erroneous and that there are constitutional implications.”
Upon signing the bill, Governor Christie expressed concerns over how the law might impact parental choice, but stated that the benefits of receiving professional counseling and therapy were unclear.
“I expressed my concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children,” he stated. “I still have those concerns. … 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.”
A similar lawsuit was filed in August of this year by Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based Christian legal organization.
“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,” founder and chairman Mat Staver outlined in a news release about the matter. “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.”
Churches are immune from the restriction.
Photo: Bob Jagendorf