Family sues New Jersey for right to put their child in gay conversion therapy

A New Jersey couple is fighting to put their child in a discredited therapy to "cure" him of his sexual identity

By Katie McDonough

Published November 5, 2013 2:24PM (EST)

                                    (Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)

A New Jersey couple is suing their state over a law banning so-called gay conversion therapy, which they say is a violation of their free speech rights, freedom of religion and ability to parent their child "free from unconstitutional government interference," which in this case means putting a 15-year-old high school student through a medically discredited pseudotherapy intended to "cure" him of his sexual and gender identity.

According to the complaint, the couple's teenage son began "experiencing gender identity disorder when he was around nine years old," at which point he started to see a social worker who "helped him tremendously" with his gender identity and "unwanted same-sex attraction."

At the recommendation of this social worker, the family then contacted Ronald Newman, a member of the anti-gay Christian counseling group National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, but the state ban on the discredited practice prevented them from going forward with the counseling.

“John Doe 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," according to the complaint.

The suit contends that the teenager has also struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts in the past, a sad and frightening fact since he doesn't seem like he has the support necessary to seek the genuine help -- including legitimate and medically credible therapy -- that he needs any time soon.

Beyond Ex-Gay, a community of survivors of "sexual orientation change efforts" who abandoned the practice and the anti-gay, anti-trans worldview that comes with it, surveyed its members to find the top 10 reasons they entered ex-gay therapy in the first place, all of which, sadly, seem to be echoed in this case:

  • To be a better Christian.
  • I believed it was what God wanted me to do.
  • I feared I would be condemned by God.
  • The desire to fit in with everyone, to feel “normal.”
  • Cultural pressure to conform to heterosexuality.
  • Desire to please family and friends.
  • I feared I would go to hell for being gay.
  • Fear of losing family and friends.
  • Misinformation of what it meant to be gay.
  • Self-hatred & internalized homophobia.


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

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