TRENTON – The Assembly Women and Children Committee released a bill prohibiting counseling by licensed professionals to change the sexual orientation of children who are under age 18.
A3371 states that individuals who are licensed to provide professional counseling, psychiatrists, psychologists, certified social workers, marriage and family therapists, among others – are prohibited from engaging in “sexual orientation change efforts.”
These efforts are commonly known as conversion therapies.
The bill defines “sexual orientation change efforts,” or conversion therapies, as the practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual persuasion, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.
Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-26) of Parsippany, abstained, saying it would take parental rights and choice away.
All the Democrats on the committee – Benji Wimberly, Gabriel Mosquera, Gary Schaer and Pamela Lampitt – supported to release it.
In March, the Senate Health Committee released its version of the bill, S2278.
Supporters of the bill said it will help young people feel safe and secure with their own identities.
Jennifer Lyke, a clinical psychologist at Richard Stockton College, said conversion therapies are based on “outdated psychological techniques” and ineffective if not potentially harmful.
Jean Mercer, a developmental psychologist who also teaches at the college, said such therapies are based on inaccurate information and there is no “systematic evidence” that they are effective.
Alison Gill of Trevor Project said A3371 will be a vital measure protecting people from “dangerous and discredited” procedures that are based on the false premise that being gay or lesbian is an illness. Depression, low self esteem, even suicide, could be some of the side effects from such therapies.
I’m not broke, I’m not confused and I do not need to be fixed,” said Jacob Rudolph of Parsippany. “I am who I am and I always will be who I am.”
The bill had its critics.
Pastor Matthew Jones of Mountaintop Church, an Assembly of God church, said the legislation would “restrict parents’ rights.”
Christopher Doyle, a psychotherapist who is part of the International Healing Foundation, said the legislation would “marginalize” individuals who want to avoid unwanted homosexual tendencies. He added that it could lead to more people seeking “underground” therapies done by unlicensed individuals.
“Thousands of people have changed from gay to straight…I’m one of them.”
He then held up a large portrait of his children.
“I formerly lived a gay life. I’ve changed,” he said. “You’re going to marginalize my family?”
“We need to respect the right and self determination of all people.”
Chuck Peters, a California resident who came to testify at the hearing, said the time has come for the chamber to “accept ex-gays” who don’t want to be homosexual.
“I didn’t want to be gay,” he said. Peters said he would’ve committed suicide if he was not able to participate in talk therapy.
“If you take hope away from a child, what is there left to live for,” he said. “I’m begging this Assembly to give those kids a fighting change.”
John Tomicki, executive director of the League of American Families, called the bill “unconstitutional” that would be subject to a legal challenge, adding that it amounts to harming children.
“Do not move forward on this bill until there is more research,” he said.
But Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal said SOCEs – sexual orientation change efforts – do not work and are destructive.
The bill will protect consumers and prevent further discrimination, the committee was told.