Another step forward: NJ bans harmful "conversion therapy" for minors

New Jersey becomes the second state in the country to outlaw so called "conversion therapy" for minors. Today, New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, will sign the bill that passed the New Jersey state legislature. New Jersey joins California as the only two states that bans the harmful practices for minors.

"No young person should be subjected to the psychological traumas that come with trying to change who they are," said GLAAD's Wilson Cruz. "Today, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has sent a strong message of support to New Jersey's LGBT youth. As work to secure full marriage protections for loving and committed same-sex couples continues in the Garden State, we hope Gov. Christie will maintain his support for equality for all New Jerseyans."

Garden State Equality had been advocating the law in the legislature, as well as calling on Governor Christie to sign the bill. Until today, it was uncertain whether Christie would sign the bill. He had previously vetoed legislation that would have provided marriage equality for the state.

"We also commend the Governor for signing this legislation, and we hope he is true to his word. We hope that his realization, that there is nothing wrong with our LGBT youth - and that there is nothing about them that needs to be fixed – will lead to a further evolution" said Garden State Equality Executive Director, Troy Stevenson. "It is our truest hope that the Governor will realize as the majority of the legislature and a super majority of the New Jersey public have realized, that the best way to ensure our LGBT youth are protected from the abuse of being ostracized, is to provide them with equality."

One major advocate for the ban on "conversion therapy" is Jacob Rudolph. Last January, came out in an acceptance speech at his Senior Awards in front of over 300 students, staff and parents. Since then Jacob has become an advocate against so-called "gay conversion therapy," including testifying on behalf of the bill before the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee in March and launching a petition urging Governor Christie to sign the bill into law.

"This is a huge win for LGBT youth in New Jersey and across the country. By signing the bill banning gay conversion therapy into law, Governor Christie has made our state the second in the nation to ban this dangerous practice that attempts to fix people who aren’t broken," Jacob said. "More than 143,000 people spoke out and urged the Governor to protect New Jersey kids like me, and that’s exactly what he did today.” Jacob and his mother marched with GLAAD during New York City Pride.

This legislation comes at a time when scrutiny of "ex-gay" programs has been on the rise, and support for such harmful practices have been further marginalized.

A consumer fraud court case by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of 6 plaintiffs is proceeding, also in New Jersey, against JONAH, a Jewish "ex-gay" program. The lawsuit alleges that proponents of "ex-gay" programs promise a change in sexual orientation, only to subject participants to dehumanizing and shaming exercises that do not change orientation.

Even those who have propagated "ex-gay" programs have been distancing themselves from such practices. In May, John Paulk, a leading poster boy for such programs, issued an apology and condemned "ex-gay" programs. Then, in June, Exodus International announced that it would be closing its doors. Exodus' President, Alan Chambers, issued his own apology to the LGBT community and stated that attempts to change sexual orientation do not work, even though complete change had been promised.

However, there are still proponents of so-called "ex-gay" programs. When Exodus distanced itself from "conversion" programs, a more extreme fringe broke off to start the Restored Hope Network, which continues to state that one can change sexual orientation. Additionally, the leadership of Exodus are starting a new program, called Reduce Fear. The goals of Reduce Fear are not yet clear, but will likely to continue to state that being gay is undesirable. 

GLAAD continues to educate the media on covering so-called "ex-gay" programs, and advises all media outlets to check out "Unmasking So-Called Ex-Gay Activists" and the Media Reference Guide section on "ex-gay" programs.