Monday, August 04, 2014

Federal Court Knocks Down Last Challenge to New Jersey "Ex-Gay" Therapy Ban

As noted many times on this blog, the "ex-gay" myth is something carefully crafted by far right Christofascists to achieve several goals.  Perhaps the most important has been to claim that "gays can change" and that, therefore, no legal protections are needed for the LGBT community.  If they want to be sinners, fine, but let them be inferior under the law and open to abuse and discrimination.  A second motivation has been purely monetary: parents of gay youths - and some gay adults - will pay lots of money to quack "ex-gay" therapists who promise to "change" gays into straights.  The "therapy," of course doesn't work and at times drives patients to suicide  or worsens their mental/emotional state.  California and New Jersey have banned "ex-gay" therapy and the Christofascists have lost court cases claiming the ban infringes on their "freedom of speech" and/or "freedom of religion."  Last week a federal court threw out the last remaining of these case.  Here are details via Think Progress:

After New Jersey passed its ban on ex-gay therapy for minors last year, two lawsuits were filed challenging the law, one by therapists wishing to continue to practice the harmful treatment and one by a family seeking to continue the treatment for their son. In November, a federal judge ruled against the therapists, and on Thursday, the same judge dismissed the family’s challenge, again upholding the ban.

The case had been stayed back in March while the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether to take up an appeal in a similar case in California. Last month, the Supreme Court announced it would not be hearing the case, allowing the Ninth Circuit’s ruling upholding California’s similar ban on ex-gay therapy to stand. With that settled, Judge Freda Wolfson now felt it appropriate to issue a decision in this second case. The plaintiffs in this case made the same arguments that the therapists made in theirs; in fact, they were represented by the same lawyer — Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) affiliate Demetrios Stratis.

One claim was that the ban on ex-gay therapy infringes on their freedom of speech, but Wolfson noted that because the treatment consists of talk therapy, the law only regulates the conduct of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and not anybody’s right to free speech.

According to the family, the law also infringes upon their free exercise of religion, specifically their belief that changing same-sex attraction or behavior is possible. Wolfson countered that, just as she concluded in the therapists’ case, the ban is “facially neutral with respect to religion” and “does not suppress, target, or single out the practice of any religion because of religious conduct.”

The only new argument put forth in this case was the claim that the law infringes upon the parents’ “due process rights to care for the mental health of their child as they see fit.” Wolfson rejected this claim outright. “Surely, the fundamental rights of parents,” she wrote, “do not include the right to choose a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful or ineffective. To find otherwise would create unimaginable and unintentional consequences.”

A similar case in New Jersey state court, in which survivors of ex-gay therapy are suing a Jewish ex-gay ministry for consumer fraud, is ongoing.

No doubt, with this ruling we will hear more bleating that Christians are being "persecuted."  

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