The New Jersey state legislature has followed California’s path towards banning reparative therapy of LGBT youth on Monday. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee heard testimony regarding Senator Raymond Lesniak’s (D-Union) bill, S2278, which aims to outlaw the practice of reparative therapy amongst New Jersey’s licensed professionals.
Reparative therapy has been found to be extremely harmful to those subjected to it and according to the bill’s sponsors, the legislation that was passed out of committee will protect the most vulnerable members of the LGBT community.
The past few years have seen young LGBT youth emerging into a society that is more accepting.
However, some youth are not always fortunate to find open arms as they try to make their way into adulthood.”¨”¨New Jersey is now the second battleground in the fight to ban reparative therapy.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed the nation’s first ban of the practice on September 30, 2012, calling it “quackery.”
Since then, a number of legislators across the country have joined the fight, but none have come as far as New Jersey.
Days after California paved the way, out NJ Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen) announced that he planned to follow suit with similar legislation in the New Jersey General Assembly.
By October 15, legislators in both the New Jersey State Senate and State Assembly had introduced bills aimed at protecting LGBT youth from the practice.”¨
In November last year, a group of gay men subjected to reparative therapy filed a lawsuit in Hudson County, New Jersey. They and their parents had been promised that the young men would be “cured” of homosexuality. Now years later, they are not “cured” and are speaking out against the horrifying things they were subjected to as minors.
The lawsuit, filed against Jews Offering New Alternatives (JONAH), alleges that the young men were subjected to demeaning acts and were led to believe that their sexuality could be changed.”¨
The lawsuit is to be heard in the next few months.
During Monday’s hearing those that testified highlighted the many scientific studies and professional groups that have renounced reparative therapy.
Among those testifying included representatives from Garden State Equality, the Trevor Project, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Human Rights Campaign.
All echoed that reparative “therapy” was extremely harmful mentally, and sometimes physically, to the young men and women forced to take part.
Garden State Equality’s Executive Director Troy Stevenson emailed supporters prior to the hearing to tell his personal story. He revealed that growing up in Oklahoma he knew a young man, the first person he kissed, who had committed suicide rather than be sent back to “conversion camp.”
Ryan Kendall testified that as a teenager his parents sent him to see a reparative therapist with a group called National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
He said reparative therapy “destroyed my life and tore apart my family.” Kendall said that in order to avoid the “therapy” he ran away when he was 16-years-old and for the next 10 years, struggled to survive.
Brielle Goldani described experiences from True Directions in Columbus, Ohio, of shock therapy sessions and vomit inducing IV medications, which led Goldani to attempt suicide three times following this “therapy.””¨”¨Committee Chairman Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) then called on a panel opposed to the legislation.
Carol Galantine of Living Free Ministries started the opposition’s testimony by stating”¨”I heard some really wacky stuff today.” She went on to ask “How many people are dying of AIDS?” and argued that “domestic violence among same sex partners is sky high, but you don’t hear about that.”
Others testifying in opposition were more tempered in their statements, focusing on technicalities of the bill and how it would work. Many worried that those who may need therapy to help them come to terms with their sexuality could be turned away due to the vagueness of a section of the bill.”¨”¨
Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) was moved by the testimony so much that she notified the bill sponsors that she would become a co-sponsor of the legislation even before the committee hearing completed.
Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex) and Senator Dawn Addiego (R-Burlington) both had similar concerns that some minors could seek help and might not be allowed to because of the bill.
Following the hearing, Assemblyman Tim Eustace told 429Magazine, “I will absolutely work with Senator Lesniak and the Senators that are concerned to find appropriate wording for amendments as we move this bill forward.
“It is not our intent whatsoever to block supportive therapy for struggling LGBT youth to come to terms with their sexuality.””¨”¨After over three hours of testimony the bill was passed out of committee 7-1 with two abstentions.