The New Jersey Assembly on Monday
approved a bill which seeks to ban therapies that attempt to alter a
minor's sexual orientation from gay to straight.
The bill cleared the chamber with a
56-14 vote with 7 abstentions. The measure now moves to the Senate,
which is expected to take it up on Thursday.
The measure is sponsored by Democratic
Assemblyman Tim Eustace, who is openly gay and has raised two
children with his partner of 31 years.
“I see it as a form of child abuse,”
Eustace told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Being gay “is not
an illness, so what are they fixing?”
The proposed legislation, which is
modeled after California's law, would prohibit mental health
professionals from engaging in “sexual orientation change efforts”
with a minor.
“Studies and personal testimony have
shown this practice creates irreparable harm on young people
struggling to come to terms with their sexuality,” said
Eustace. “Forcing someone to deny their innate feelings and
their very existence has led to depression, suicidal tendencies and
other untold harm. Leading psychological professionals agree that
this practice has no place in legitimate mental health therapies. I
hope New Jersey will join California in leading the way on standing
up to this harmful practice.”
A second sponsor, Democratic
Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr., noted that the practice has been
condemned by the American Psychological Association, the American
Counseling Association and the American Psychiatric Association.
“All of the leading health
associations in this country have discounted this practice in favor
of positive reinforcements,” he said. “The benefits of the
practice are unfounded and, in fact, it has proven to do more harm
than good in many cases. Our youth should not be forced to undergo
such clinically disparaged practices.”
The bill is being championed in the
Senate by Senators Raymond Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg and Senate
President Stephen Sweeney.