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New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Lawyer Discusses the Constitutionality of New Jersey's Ban on "Gay-Conversion" Therapy

Sometime ago, I blogged in support of the Bill which sought to ban "Gay-Conversion" Therapy in New Jersey. I discussed the fact that such "therapy" is not true "therapy." True therapy is a medicinal modality. True medicinal modalities must be predicated upon science, not superstition or folklore; certainly not upon fear and hatred borne of biblically-inspired fears and biases.

The historic prevalence of nonsensical "folk" remedies based upon superstition and folklore are legion, and not the right subject for this Blog. But as I discuss this issue, I want you to keep in mind such things as "dispelling the bad vapors," "bleeding" someone to heal them, packing saw dust in wounds, and other things that illustrate the old saying that the "cure is worse than the disease." To suggest that humans have at times done some pretty stupid things we've called "healing" would be an understatement.

Of course, homosexuality isn't a disease and it is not a "choice." That doesn't stop, however, extreme religious positions from suggesting otherwise. The problem with extreme religious positions is that they tend, like any virus, to "infect" the minds of those who adhere to them. As a consequence, "gay conversion therapy" has arisen as a "fix" to the "disease" of homosexuality. Obviously, the only reason people try gay conversion therapy, other than extreme desperation, is because of religious pressure, either impose upon them by others, or self-imposed through guilt and fear. Most often, that religious pressure for kids under the age of 18 comes from their highly motivated religious parents.

Kids are essentially helpless in the face of this pressure, shame, humiliation and expectation. They're confused and frightened by what they've been told is a disease. They're willing to "please," either because they love their parents or because they hate themselves (and fear eternal damnation), by attending this "therapy."

"Therapy" can no more fix homosexuality - a biological artifact that appears in nearly all mammalian species - than "therapy" can "fix" skin tone, hair color or eye color. It's simply a biological "reality." Whether someone chooses to suppress that biological reality or not is, I suppose, in one sense, a "choice," but it's not a "real" choice. "Gay conversion therapy" is the worst kind of quackery and causes far more harm than it ever cures. At best, the "victims" of gay conversion therapy live their lives creating tremendous stress, sorrow, sadness and anger for themselves and others by effectively denying who they are. At worst, the victims of gay conversion therapy commit suicide or make others around them miserable and angry. Productive lives are impaired or even lost. The person who might cure cancer ten years from now might also kill himself at 20 because he "failed" his gay conversion therapy.

On August 19, the Governor signed the bill into law. Recently, Judge Wilson, for the United States District Court of New Jersey, held that the statute prohibiting the practice of gay conversion therapy is constitutional.

It was with all of this in mind that the Bill banning Gay Conversion Therapy was proposed, considered and passed. The expected foes opposed the Bill, and the expected foes now attack the Bill.

The law, of course, only bans gay conversion therapy for minors, since once you turn the age of 18, you can do anything to yourself you'd like. The challengers to the constitutionality of the law were two "therapists," along with the "National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality," and the American Association of "Christian" Counselors.

Their approach was novel. Rather than challenging the statute directly, they came at it sideways, by arguing that the statute abridged constitutionally protected speech (their theory was that the therapy is carried out through "talk"). Of course they can't challenge it directly on religious grounds because the statute makes no reference to religious practice, conduct or motivation. The statute on its face is "legally neutral."

Obviously, the Court's decision is a correct one and as a rational person, as well as an Employment Rights Attorney, I support and celebrate the decision. The word "religion" can mean beautiful things but unfortunately, for those who use it not as an inner consolation, but as an outer "weapon" to oppress others, it's ugly and dark. Gay conversion therapy would not exist but for extreme religious viewpoints, and the suffering that it causes can at least be ameliorated for those most helpless before its harm.

This was a good decision. I don't expect that we've heard the last of the fringe groups that insist that everyone else live like they live, but at least the door has been barred to the lunatic fringe at present.

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