The Star-Ledger’s March 22 editorial, “Don’t overreach on gay conversion therapy,” opposes a bill (A3371) before the New Jersey Assembly banning “gay conversion therapy” for minors. As a psychiatric expert critical of sexual conversion “therapies,” I understand the editorial board’s concerns. I even shared similar views with a Star-Ledger reporter last fall after California passed its own ban. I was skeptical about legislation as the best way to deal with this issue, because state laws would not affect the majority of conversion therapy practitioners, who are mostly unlicensed. Since that time, however, my thinking has evolved. Following a court challenge to California’s law, in February 2013, I submitted an amicus brief in its support. What changed my mind? Initially I believed a law, by itself, is not the most efficient means of protecting the public from scientifically unproven “treatments.” Simply passing laws might create the erroneous impression that everything that needs to be done has been done and distract from needed efforts to educate oversight bodies. Licensing boards, regulatory agencies and ethics committees of professional organizations are often woefully unfamiliar with the harm caused by conversion therapies.
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