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Federal judge upholds New Jersey ban on sexual orientation conversion therapy

A judge for the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] on Friday upheld a New Jersey law [text] banning the use of sexual orientation conversion therapy. The unidentified parents of a 15-year-old boy filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] seeking an injunction on the law, allowing them to continue using conversion therapy on their son, as they had since 2011. The plaintiffs claim that the law violates their First Amendment [text] rights to the free exercise [Cornell LII backgrounder] of their religion and the freedom of speech. Judge Freda Wolfson held that the law "on its face does not target speech, and 'counseling' is not entitled to special constitutional protection merely because it is primarily carried out through talk therapy."

The practice of conversion therapy has come under scrutiny lately. In August, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official website] signed into law a measure banning licensed therapists [JURIST report] from providing sexual orientation conversion services to minors. The bill is thought to be a response to a lawsuit filed by four New Jersey men [JURIST report] last November, who claimed the practice was a breeding ground for discrimination and fraud. California's anti-conversion therapy legislation, the first of its kind in the US, was approved by the California State Assembly last August and by the California Senate [JURIST reports] in May of last year. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] upheld California's law in August, holding that "as a regulation of professional conduct, [the law] does not violate the free speech rights of ["sexual orientation conversion"] practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents' fundamental rights." According to some experts, California's efforts to pass the ban on sexual orientation therapy highlighted a need for better gender identity standards [JURIST op-ed].

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