N.J. lawmakers consider bill outlawing anti-gay "conversion" therapy

A state Senate Health Committee is discussing a proposal to ban the widely discredited practice

Published March 18, 2013 5:43PM (EDT)

                                    (Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)

The New Jersey Senate Health Committee convened on Monday to consider a proposal outlawing the widely discredited practice of "gay conversion" therapy in the state.

Believers in reparative therapy think that being gay is a pathology, one that can be "cured" through counseling. The alleged treatment persists despite being discredited by many professional associations and other counseling groups.

As noted by the New York Times, "harsh aversion techniques" like using electric shock therapy and nausea-inducing drugs to counter "homosexual urges" have largely disappeared over the last three decades, only to be replaced by "kinder, gentler" reparative therapies that pathologize homosexuality and link same-sex attraction to emotional wounds and sexual abuse during childhood.

Jonathan Bier, an 18-year-old college student, testified to the Senate committee about his experience after he was told that he would be expelled from his yeshiva if he didn’t undergo conversion therapy.

“The therapy involved my reading specific portions of the Bible over and over on a weekly basis for the year. I was told about the dangers of homosexuality how it’s connected to disease, mental illness, a life of unhappiness. This hurt me deeply, to this day I’m still affected.”

Ryan Kendall, who was also subjected to conversion therapy when he was a teenager, testified as well, telling the committee:

“This must stop. We would not tolerate this type of practice for any other group in society. We would not send black children to racial conversion therapy, women to gender conversion therapy or Christians to Atheist conversion therapy.”

The lead sponsor of the bill is state Assemblyman Tim Eustace, an openly gay Democrat.

The ban would prevent licensed practitioners from performing gay conversion therapy on minors, even if parental permission is given. If passed, the state would become the second in the nation to ban the practice. California outlawed conversion therapy in October 2012, but the law is on hold pending a court ruling on its constitutionality.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Conversion Therapy Lgbt Lgbt Rights Reparative Therapy