TRENTON, N.J. — A bill has been introduced that could make New Jersey the nation’s second state to impose limits on gay-to-straight “reparative,” or “conversion” therapy.
The measure, A3371, is backed by the American Psychological Association’s research, and if passed, would prohibit counseling that seeks to change the sexual orientation for any person under the age of 18, reported NJ.com.
“I don’t know it’s something rampant in New Jersey with aggressive offering of the service, but some are suggesting that, for a fee, they can change a person’s sexual orientation. It’s so odd in the 2012, soon to be 2013, that anyone would take seriously that sexual orientation is going to be changed by the therapy. There is no sign to tell us it’s a possibility,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), who along with openly gay Assemblyman Timothy Eustace (D-Bergen County), co-sponsored the legislation.
The American Psychological Association (APA) — which began recognizing in 1974 that homosexuality is not a mental disorder — charged a task force to take a close look at research literature for sexual orientation efforts.
“There is evidence that some people thought they were harmed by the (conversion) therapy,” said Clinton Anderson, the Washington D.C.-based Director of the Lesbian, Gay, bisexual, and transgender Concerns Office at APA.
“By encouraging them to believe they could change, when in fact they were not able to change, was undermining to their self-esteem, made them feel worse about themselves and that their faith was not great enough. Those sorts of perceptions people have of themselves can lead to depression, anxiety and more distress,” Anderson said.
Anderson noted that the majority of the APA’s research and data is based on adults but he pointed out that children, particularly adolescents, are more vulnerable.
“If an adult wants to engage in processes to change their life, that is an adult decision,” added Burzichelli.
California will soon became the first state in the nation to prohibit licensed mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts of any kind for a minor patient, regardless of a parent’s willingness or desire to authorize participation in such programs. The law takes effect Jan. 1.