US Supreme Court upholds ban on gay conversion therapy

The US Supreme Court on Monday left intact New Jersey's ban on counseling intended to change the sexual orientation of gay children.

(AP Photo/Molly Riley)
People wait outside the US Supreme Court in Washington.

The US Supreme Court on Monday left intact New Jersey's ban on counseling intended to change the sexual orientation of gay children.

The court declined to hear a challenge to the law, meaning that a September ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the ban is the final word on the matter.

The appeals court said the ban, which Republican Governor Chris Christie signed into law in August 2013, did not violate the free speech or religious rights of counselors offering "gay conversion therapy" to convert homosexual minors into heterosexuals.

The panel also said the plaintiffs, who included licensed therapists and a Christian counseling group, lacked standing to pursue claims on behalf of their minor clients.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, but various conservative and religious groups have since argued that sexual orientation can be changed.

Plaintiffs challenging the New Jersey ban included two counselors, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counselors.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported on April 9, President Obama's view on gay conversion therapy has evolved.

Obama’s evolution on gay issues took another turn this week when the White House declared its opposition to "conversion therapy" for minors – the belief that a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity can be made "normal" (in psychological and emotional terms) through therapy, also known as "reparative therapy."

"The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm," senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a statement posted on the White House website. "As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

Monday's action marked the second time the high court has declined to hear a challenge to such a law. In June 2014, the court left intact California's conversion therapy ban.

The case is King v. New Jersey, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-672. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Will Dunham)

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