A US federal appeals court has upheld the state of New Jersey’s ban on so-called reparative or conversion therapy aiming to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian children.
In August last year, New Jersey became the second US state after California to outlaw this kind of therapy for minors as a harmful practice.
The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and the American Association of Christian Counselors, represented by Liberty Counsel, challenged the ban, stating that it violates free speech, religious freedom and the right of parents to choose how to raise their children.
The three judges on the panel of the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals, however, unanimously disagreed and on Thursday backed an earlier lower court ruling in November in support of the ban.
The judges said the ban was justified because it was in the best interests of children, and was based on legitimate concerns by professional groups such as the American Psychiatric Association.
Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of LGBT advocacy group Lambda Legal, told Reuters that the ruling “will do a lot of good for young people who are at great risk of harm from unscrupulous or misguided therapists.”
Liberty Counsel, on the other hand, said that it will ask the Supreme Court to review the decision and stated that “we will not stop fighting until these laws are relegated to the dustbins of history.”
In July, the US Supreme Court allowed California to implement its ban on conversion therapy for young people when it declined to hear two cases challenging the legality of the law.
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.”