N.J. Legislature to debate ban on ‘conversion therapy’ for kids

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a measure to ban a controversial treatment called “conversion therapy” for minors.

The state Health and Human Services Committee is taking up the issue Monday.

Conversion or reparative therapy is a treatment aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight.

It has been decried as ineffective and damaging by many psychologists. The American Psychological Association published a report stating that it can cause lasting harm in individuals.

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Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a sponsor of the bill, says it’s the role of lawmakers to step in when there’s a potential threat to minors.

“I don’t think it’s legitimate. But that goes beyond what we’re trying to do,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “We just don’t think that children should be forced to go through something to try to make them believe they are something or someone that they are not.”

Opponents of the bill say conversion therapy has helped some individuals. Arthur Goldberg with the advocacy group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Homosexuality says the government has no place banning it.

“The government is basically saying that we must affirm your homosexuality as opposed to saying that if you want to have the freedom to choose, we’re denying you that freedom,” said Goldberg. “That’s what this bill does.”

Goldberg says it should be up to parents to determine therapy choices for their kids.

Sweeney says he’s confident the bill will pass committee and expects the full Senate to vote on it on Thursday.

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