(Trenton, NJ, July 31, 2014)—Today, Judge Freda Wolfson of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a lawsuit that challenged a 2013 New Jersey law prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of a patient under 18 years old. The judge also granted a request by Garden State Equality, the state’s largest civil rights organization and the leading organization supporting passage of the law, to intervene in the case in defense of the law.
Today’s decision follows Judge Wolfson’s November 2013 decision dismissing a similar challenge to the law filed on behalf of therapists who wish to engage in these dangerous and long-discredited practices. That earlier decision is now on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which heard argument in the case on July 9.
In today’s ruling, Judge Wolfson concluded that “the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful or ineffective.” Garden State Equality is represented in the case by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and GluckWalrath LLP.
In 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision upholding a similar law in California protecting youth from these harmful practices. On June 30, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to further review that case. Similar legislation prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change minors’ sexual orientation or gender identity also has been proposed in several other states.
Statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.:
“We are very pleased that Judge Wolfson has again upheld this life-saving law. This law protects New Jersey’s youth from dangerous and discredited practices that have been rejected by the country’s leading medical and mental health organizations. Although well-meaning parents often think they are helping their children by sending them to therapists who engage in these practices, the truth is that attempting to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not improve their health, but instead puts them at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide. New Jersey has wisely decided to end these harmful practices, just as it prohibits other medical treatments that are dangerous and ineffective.”