US: Gay conversion therapy ban passed by Senate committee New Jersey

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A bill which would ban controversial gay “cure” therapy was approved by a Senate committee in the US state of New Jersey, after impassioned testimony from those who had undergone such practice.

With a vote for 7-1, and two abstentions, the bill passed the Senate’s health committee. The bill proposes banning psychiatrists, social workers and family therapists from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age.”

In a three-hour hearing last night, the committee heard testimony of several people who had undergone the therapy. This included Brielle Sophia Goldani, a trans woman, who was forced to undergo therapy at a camp in Ohio and who attempted suicide three times.

The bill’s main sponsor, openly gay State Assembleyman Tim Eustace, said the therapy “constitutes child abuse.” He introduced the bill after “several constituents – young people – came to our office complaining that this still exists,” he said.

College student Jonathan Bier, who was threatened with expulsion from his yeshiva, an Orthodox Jewish College, if he did not undergo therapy, also spoke.

The bill will now advance to the full Senate for approval, despite criticism from the conservative New Jersey Family Policy Council. If successful, New Jersey will join California in being the only states to have banned the reparative therapy.

Back in October 2012, the US state of California banned the practice of gay conversion therapy when used on minors – the first such legislation in the country.

In December a federal judge blocked the new law, which was set to go into effect in January, and then Governor Jerry Brown appealed to have the law come into effect. 

Governor Brown said in a statement that gay “conversion therapy” had “no basis in science or medicine,” and that it would be “relegated to the dustbin of quackery”.

Last week, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notified the public that it had revoked the tax-exempt status for the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which aims to “cure” people of “unwanted homosexuality”.