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Federal judge upholds New Jersey’s ban on LGBT “conversion therapy”

Conversion therapy cases LGBT Legal Cases

On Friday, a federal district court judge issued a ruling in King v. Christie, the challenge to New Jersey’s newly-enacted ban on so-called LGBT “conversion therapy”. The district court judge upheld the law against First Amendment challenges. The judge found that, the ban “restricts neither speech nor religious expression, rational basis review applies.” And further, the ban “passes constitutional muster under that standard.”

The ruling holds that the ban doesn’t regulate “speech” at all, just conduct: “Even a cursory review reveals that the statute nowhere references speech or communication; instead, the statute contains words and phrases that are generally associated with conduct.”

The judge noted that the New Jersey law raises novel constitutional questions: only California has a similar law. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled on the constitutionality of California’s law, upholding it against First Amendment challenges.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights issued a press release following the decision on Friday:

“The court’s decision today is a huge victory for New Jersey youth. This law will save lives by protecting young people them from these horrible and damaging practices,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “We thank Assemblyman Tim Eustace for authoring this important legislation.”

NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, who represents Garden State Equality in the case, added: “This law protects youth from practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental health professional organizations. The court issued a clear and thorough decision explaining that state-licensed therapists do not have a constitutional right to engage in discredited practices that do not improve patients’ health and put young people at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide.”

Andrew Bayer, Chairman of GluckWalrath LLP’s litigation department, stated: “The team at GluckWalrath is honored to have worked on such an important case of national significance which protects the youth of the State of New Jersey.”

The decision was immediately appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for these filings


  • 1. Bose_in_SP_MN  |  November 12, 2013 at 8:24 am

    My favorite piece from this ruling was on page 56:

    "For Plaintiffs to argue on the one hand that their ability to engage in SOCE is impermissibly restricted by A3371, and on the other hand claim that A3371 is unconstitutionally vague because it fails to define 'sexual orientation' strains credulity. Regardless, because I find that a person of ordinary intelligence — let alone Plaintiffs — would understand what the term sexual orientation means, A3371 is not vague for the inclusion of this term."

    Yep, if you're a licensed mental health pro, you're not doing your perceived competence any favors while protesting ignorance or undefinability of basic terms…

  • 2. sfbob  |  November 12, 2013 at 8:48 am

    So if this holds up at the higher levels, the folks who want to place California's very similar ban on the ballot next year may (if they get their measure on the ballot and if it passes) end up losing again in court.

  • 3. Eric  |  November 12, 2013 at 9:07 am

    They tried and failed to get enough signatures for a referendum on the law in California this year. I doubt they will fare any better next year.

  • 4. sfbob  |  November 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

    They claim to have enough signatures this time (see the Quick Hit to the left here). Whether they have enough VALID signatures is another matter of course. I do think the fact that they gave up last time is cause for optimism even if they make it to the ballot but I suppose their success will come down to how many lies they tell in their campaigns and how well we're able to catch them out. Of course if they make the ballot and they win, expect a lawsuit. And the above decision gives me hope.

  • 5. sfbob  |  November 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I see I have screwed up here. The latest potential ballot measure would not be an attack on California's law banning conversion therapy but would instead be an attack on the rights of transgender students. I should read more carefully before shooting off my mouth (so to speak).

  • 6. Michelle Evans  |  November 12, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I am not aware of anyone trying to get signatures to put the conversion ban on the California ballot. The one they are trying to get on the ballot for next November is the Safe Bathrooms Bill, AB1266. This bill is specifically aimed at aiding students who are transgender to be able to use the correct bathroom and other school facilities, which makes their lives safer.

    The problem is that it is almost certain that the haters have gotten enough signatures to put trans rights on the ballot simply because trans people are hated and misunderstood much, much more than lesbians and gays. Can you just imagine the ads that will come out of places like NOM to scare people into voting against trans people. If you thought what we went through with Prop 8 was nasty, that was only the beginning if they have the chance to go after trans people.

  • 7. Bruno71  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I shudder to think of what may be coming up in that vile campaign. I hope some effective advertising can thwart the bigots' lies.

  • 8. sfbob  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I realized my mistake as soon as I'd (foolishly) done my post above.

    I agree; the ad campaign is really, really going to be vile.

  • 9. Michelle Evans  |  November 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    The garbage they used just to get people to sign the petitions was already vile. Can't imagine how bad it will get with a full-fledged campaign against all trans people. I've had enough hate directed at me to last more than a few lifetimes. I would imagine that this will increase it ten-fold.

  • 10. Straight Ally #3008  |  November 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

    I guess it will be marriage equality in all 50 states, then anti-"conversion therapy" bans in all 50 states, maybe passage of ENDA before either. I guess the anti-gay side will make like the old Prop 8 crowd and focus on going after trans folks….

  • 11. Bruno71  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Hawaii Senate hearing on the marriage bill:

  • 12. Zack12  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    This isn't going to be as bad. Only four no votes and since Mike Gabbard (the bigot who helped push and get the ban passed in the first place) has a daughter in congress he's likely to be less vocal.
    Donna Kim is a big bigot but as she's now running for Congress,giving a vile speech like Karen Awana or Sharon Har propbably won't look too good

  • 13. Bruno71  |  November 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Like Awana, he's apologized for his remarks in advance. Not a good sign of being less vocal.

  • 14. Rich  |  November 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Hawaii Senate says YES! 19 to 4

  • 15. davep  |  November 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm


  • 16. mnbob  |  November 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    You don't have a 1st amendment right to practice medicine.

  • 17. Deeelaach  |  November 13, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Good point. The corollary would be that you don't have a first amendment right to be a licensed therapist either. Health providers do have certain standards to uphold!

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