In 2013, NCLR worked with local advocates in New Jersey to pass Assembly Bill 3371—a law modeled off California’s groundbreaking Senate Bill 1172. On August 19 of that year, Governor Chris Christie signed the nation’s second law prohibiting state-licensed therapists from practicing anti-LGBT conversion therapy on those under 18 years old. Though every major medical and mental health organization has cautioned that attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are ineffective and harmful, some mental health practitioners licensed by the state continue to exploit parents and youth by falsely claiming they can prevent a child from growing up to be LGBT.
Noting the American Psychological Association’s warning that these practices put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem, and even suicide, Governor Christie emphasized that he was signing the bill because of his concern about “exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks.”
Immediately after the bill became law, the same anti-LGBTQ legal group that challenged the California bill filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of New Jersey therapists and parents that support the use of these harmful practices. NCLR intervened in those lawsuits to help the New Jersey Attorney General defend the law and protect young people from this psychological abuse. The U.S. District Court in New Jersey upheld the law, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Third’s Circuit’s ruling.