Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Jersey Assembly Women And Children’s Committee Approves Bill Banning Licensed Therapists From Providing Gay Conversion Therapy To Minors; Bill A3371 Now Heads To Full Assembly

In Trenton, New Jersey, over the objections of a conservative family group's threat to sue, the Assembly Women and Children's Committee today approved a bill that would prohibit licensed therapists from providing gay-to-straight conversion therapy to children. Testimony from opposing mental health professionals and activists dominated the 2-1/2 hour hearing at the Statehouse, with proponents arguing the treatment has been discredited as ineffective and harmful to kids, while opponents insisted the bill overrides parental rights. Before the hearing ended, John Tomicki of the League of American Families, called the bill unconstitutional, and vowing "if we have to, we will bring a legal challenge." The committee voted 4-1, with one abstention to approve the bill (A3371), sponsored by Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen). It now moves to the full Assembly for a vote. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved an identical bill in March. Some of the same participants from the March heating returned to speak at this one, including Parsippany High School student Jacob Rudolph. "On March 18, 2013, I appeared before the New Jersey State Senate Health Committee and told its members clearly and proudly that not only am I an LGBT teen, but that I am not broken, I am not confused. I do not need to be fixed," said Rudolph. He noted that Gov. Chris Christie has since stated his opposition to conversion therapy and urged the committee to seize on the momentum and approve the bill. "Our government has an obligation to protect children in our society - individuals who are unable to make their own legal decisions. Our government therefore has an obligation to prohibit the fraudulent and cruel practice of conversion therapy from being imposed on minors," Rudolph said. Jean Mercer, a developmental psychologist and retired Stockton College professor, said the only research that supports conversion therapy is "fraught with inaccuracies and omissions,” Mercer adding, "If conversions therapies had been shown to be necessary, safe and effective, discomfort associated with them might be acceptable, as we accept a certain amount of discomfort with medical treatments. Because they have not, we must consider whether in fact these treatments are abusive.” Christopher Doyle a counselor at the California-based International Healing Foundation and a former homosexual, said the stories about this form of therapy forced on minors are distorted and untrue. He said he has been providing this therapy for four years, assisting as many as 150 clients with "unwanted same sex attractions who come to me wanting to change." "I have several sessions with parents and minors," before deciding to go ahead with the therapy. "I have an ethical obligation to do no harm and I take that very seriously," Doyle said. Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), who voted in favor of the bill, stressed the legislation wouldn't preclude clergy members from providing this form of counseling if they do not seek a state license to practice professionally. Pastor Matt Jones, senior Pastor of Mountaintop Church in Mount Olive and presbyter of the Northwest Section of the New Jersey District of the Assemblies of God , disagreed, saying he wants the option for clergy-counselors to obtain their professional credentials. "This legislation would hinder my counseling center," he said, voting the committee to vote no.

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