The parents of a 15-year-old New Jersey boy are suing for the right to try to “cure” him of his homosexuality.
In August, New Jersey became the second US state after California to pass a law banning gay conversion therapy for minors as a harmful practice,
Critics claim that the ban interferes in the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit.
AP reports that the un-named couple specifically argue in their suit, the second in the state against the law, that their right to free speech and freedom of religion are being violated.
Their son is said to be grappling with “unwanted gender identity disorder and unwanted same-sex attractions” and has, as a result, suffered from ongoing thoughts of committing suicide.
The couple believe that the law denies their child and other “minors the opportunity to pursue a particular course of action that can help them address the conflicts between their religious and moral values and same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity”.
Their lawyer, Demetrios Stratis, also claims that research on the harm caused to minors by conversion therapy is faulty and incomplete.
California’s version of the law was also challenged in court but was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which unanimously ruled that the law was indeed legal.
“One could argue that children under the age of 18 are especially vulnerable with respect to sexual identity and that their parents’ judgment may be clouded by this emotionally charged issue as well,” said Judge Susan Graber in the ruling at the time.
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful. Instead, they believe that therapy should be used to help people to accept their sexuality.
The South African Society of Psychiatrists says that it “opposes any psychiatric treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual”.
It has also warned that this kind of therapy “runs the risk of harming patients by causing depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviour”.