Will N.J. be the Second State to Ban Conversion Therapy?
The New Jersey Assembly voted on Monday to ban the controversial conversion therapy in the state, just days after the leading Christian "ex-gay" organization Exodus International closed its doors, Reuters reports.
The assembly passed the measure by a 56-14 vote, with seven abstentions. Many expect the bill to be adopted by the New Jersey Senate in a vote on Thursday.
New Jersey is on its way to be the second state in the U.S. to prohibit licensed therapists from counseling LGBT youths with conversion therapy, which some believe can "change" someone from gay to straight. In October the Associated Press reported that California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation, making the state the first to ban conversion therapy for LGBT youth. The measure, however, is currently on hold while a federal appeals court takes another look at the law.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in March that he is against the therapy, but on Monday, his office declined to comment if he would sign the bill, Reuters reports.
If the bill is passed it would prohibit therapists and social workers from performing the controversial therapy in order to change patients' sexual orientation if they are under age 18. The measure will not ban conversion therapy by religious councilors, however.
The bill cites studies by the American Psychiatric Association, which found people are born gay.
"The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient," the bill reads.
Those against the measure, however, say it will interfere with parental rights and is based on unsound data.
"There's nothing that shows that talk therapy is harmful," John Tomicki of the League of American Families told Reuters.
GLAAD spokesman Ross Murry told the publication that LGBT youth are often forced into therapy by their parents who do not agree with their sexual orientation.
"Those who promote such programs advocate that gay and lesbian people are somehow 'broken' and need fixing, which is not the case," he said.
Earlier this week, Exodus International announced in a press release that it would shut its doors after 37 years.
"We're not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change - and they want to be heard," Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus said in a statement.
The statement came less than one day after the organization's president, Alan Chambers who admits to having same-sex attraction, issued a formal apology to the LGBT community for Exodus International's efforts.
"Our ministry has been public and therefore any acknowledgement of wrong must also be public. I haven't always been the leader of Exodus, but I am now, and someone must finally own and acknowledge the hurt of others. I do so anxiously, but willingly," Chambers said. "It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church's treatment of the LGBT community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt. Today it is as if I've just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church."