Supreme Court Order Marks the End of Legal Challenges to New Jersey’s Ban on Conversion Therapy for Minors

By Chris Stoll, Esq.NCLR Senior Staff Attorney

On February 29, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Doe v. Christie, a case challenging New Jersey’s law prohibiting state-licensed therapists from engaging in the discredited practice of conversion therapy with patients under 18 years of age. The Supreme Court’s order allows the law to remain in full effect and marks the final chapter in a nearly three-year-long series of challenges filed by Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT legal group.

NCLR was proud to join Garden State Equality in asking the New Jersey legislature and governor to pass this life-saving legislation, and then to represent GSE in successfully urging the federal courts to reject this legal challenge and uphold the law.

At the time Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law on August 19, 2013, New Jersey was the second state after California to pass legislation protecting against harmful efforts by licensed therapists to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity – practices that put youth at risk of serious lifelong harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Since that time, similar laws have been passed in Washington, D.C., Oregon, and Illinois, and NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign is working with leaders in dozens of other states to bring the same protections to young people everywhere.

Wherever these laws have been challenged, NCLR has also stood ready to defend them in the courts. And we’ve been successful. Federal appeals courts have uniformly rejected legal challenges to these laws brought by anti-LGBT legal groups representing therapists, minors, and parents who want to preserve these outdated and dangerous “treatments.”

These federal court decisions rest on the common-sense principle that states have the power to regulate medical care to protect patients from treatments that are ineffective and risky. Just as a doctor or patient has no right to administer or receive untested or unsafe prescription medications, therapists have no right to engage in so-called treatments that do not benefit minors and expose them to serious risks of harm. Laws protecting minors from conversion therapy are based on a strong scientific consensus among medical and mental health professionals, and states have a right—and a duty—to make sure licensed therapists are not engaging in these harmful and discredited practices.

Double Your Gift for Justice and Equality

Last year, when we launched #BornPerfect: NCLR’s Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, it was after more than two decades of advocating for an end to this heinous practice. Survivors of conversion therapy and their families have been shoulder to shoulder with us every step of the way. A year and a half ago, they called on us to take the fight to the next level.

So we set a bold goal: end conversion therapy by 2019.

Your support is critical to ensure that we succeed in eliminating this deadly practice. And today we are proud to announce that every gift we receive from now until December 31st will be matched dollar for dollar to support our life-changing work, including #BornPerfect.

Since the launch of #BornPerfect we have achieved historic milestones, including:

  • Passing groundbreaking new laws protecting minors from being subjected to conversion therapy by licensed mental health professionals and successfully defending those laws before two federal circuit courts.
  • Partnering with the Obama Administration to secure the first statements in history from a sitting President and Surgeon General condemning this ineffective and harmful practice, as well as the first Department of Health and Human Services report detailing the harm it causes to vulnerable youth.
  • Persuading the United Nations Committee Against Torture and High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak out for an end to this abuse on a global scale.

Even with these incredible gains, there is still much work to do to end this dangerous and discredited practice forever. Please make your tax-deductible gift today—which will be matched—so together we can continue to build on this momentum.

We have come so far since the days when these kids had nobody to stand up for their rights. But we won’t stop until every one of them has a place to call home for the holidays, a community where they feel safe, and a family who never lets them forget they were #BornPerfect.

Please double your gift today for justice and equality. We cannot let them down.

In solidarity,
Sam Ames, Esq.
#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

PS: You can maximize your donation by making a gift of appreciated stock today.

#BornPerfect: A Year In, and We’re Not Backing Down

By Sam Ames#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

A year ago, we set out with a goal—protect LGBTQ children from conversion therapy by wiping out the dangerous and discredited practice in just five years.

Since then, our #BornPerfect campaign has helped protect thousands of kids across the country from practices linked to severe depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. And we couldn’t have done it without you by our side.

Here’s a snapshot:

  • In #BornPerfect’s first year, we helped bring laws to Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois that protect LGBTQ kids from being subjected to “treatment” that falsely claims to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This brings us to FIVE jurisdictions that have passed these laws (NCLR helped pass similar legislation in California in 2012 and in New Jersey in 2013).
  • We successfully defended several of those laws in court against constitutional challenges. Last summer, NCLR intervened on behalf of New Jersey’s Garden State Equality and helped win the case in the U.S. Court for the District of New Jersey, followed by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Supreme Court declined to review the favorable ruling, sending the law into effect earlier this year.
  • We made history at the United Nations in Geneva last fall when we testified before the Committee Against Torture, which expressed its concern over the practice that’s still being used on LGBTQ youth across the United States. Just months later, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a landmark report calling on governments around the world to take action to end conversion therapy once and for all.
  • We worked closely with the White House this spring to support President Obama, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in calling on states to pass legislation protecting youth from practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity that have been condemned by every major medical and mental health association.
  • We worked with Congressman Ted Lieu to introduce a federal bill months ago that would define the practice of conversion therapy as illegal consumer fraud. If passed, this law could effectively cripple the conversion therapy industry, making for-profit conversion therapy illegal nationwide. The introduction built on three years of groundbreaking work by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who in 2012 introduced the first federal bill to deal with conversion therapy—the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) Resolution.

Many considered our goal ambitious. But with your faith and support, we have been able to make history time and time again. From the entire #BornPerfect team, and from all the survivors who have been empowered by your support to tell their stories, we can’t thank you enough.

We know the next four years won’t be easy. We’ve seen our opponents come out in force in states from California to Oklahoma, where, just a few months ago, we beat back legislation that would have made conversion therapy immune from regulation. But, with you by our side, we won. And, with you by our side, we’re going to keep on winning.

Together, we’re going to stand up for our kids. And we promise we won’t back down until the day every child knows they were #BornPerfect.

The President Joins Our Fight

By Sam Ames#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

Nine months ago, NCLR launched our #BornPerfect campaign to end the use of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth in five years. At the time, we thought it was an ambitious goal. We could not have imagined then the speed with which this movement has already grown or the impact it has already made. Thanks to the denunciations of these dangerous practices by mental health professionals, the tenacity of lawmakers and LGBT state equality groups, the support of faith leaders, and, most importantly, the courage of survivors, we have come farther in those nine months than we had ever thought possible.

But yesterday hit a new high water mark when one of the most powerful champions in the world joined our corner. Yesterday, President Barack Obama sent a clear message to every LGBTQ person in the country being forced into conversion therapy, into the streets, and all too often into body bags: You are not alone. You are not broken. You are ‪#‎BornPerfect.

When we started this fight 20 years ago, we knew we were in it for the long haul. When we passed SB 1172 in California, we knew we were in it for the long haul. Even today, when it is clearer than ever that this only ends one way, we know we are in it for the long haul. We cannot risk another child ending their life while they wait for the family acceptance and support they so desperately need. Now that the country is finally ready to open its eyes, we must work harder than ever to show how wrong and damaging these practices are. We will not stop fighting until every child can rest easily, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. We aren’t finished until conversion therapy is.

Time is Running Out to Stop Anti-LGBT Conversion “Therapy” in Virginia

We need your help and there’s no time to waste.

Committees in the Virginia House and Senate are voting TODAY on legislation that prohibits therapists from trying to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Anti-LGBT groups are turning out in full force to oppose this life-saving bill—please don’t let them succeed!

Committee members urgently need to hear that you want them to protect LGBT children from these dangerous and discredited practices that are known to lead to depression, social withdrawal, substance abuse, and suicide.

We only have an hour or so before committee members vote and we must ensure they pass this bill, sending it to the full floor for a vote.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Email House and Senate committee members using the draft language below.
  • Call House and Senate committee members and ask them to support the bill.
  • Send your legislators a direct tweet asking them to protect children from conversion therapy using the #HB1385, #SB988 and #BornPerfect hashtags.
  • Use the #BornPerfect image to spread the word through your social networks about the importance of this bill and ask your friends to do the same.

It’s outrageous that conversion therapy practices continue despite the serious, long-lasting harms they cause to vulnerable children and families.

LGBT young people need your help. Will you take a moment to make a difference in their lives?

In solidarity,

Kate Kendell, Esq.
NCLR Executive Director

DRAFT EMAIL CONTENT TO COMMITTEE MEMBERS

I am writing to you today to ask that you support the bill protecting children from mental health professionals who use dangerous practices to try to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Conversion therapy practices—which have been discredited by every major medical and mental health organization—lead to serious harm, including depression, shame, social withdrawal, substance abuse, and suicide.

Every leading medical and mental health organization across the country has condemned the practice and issued warnings that there is no credible evidence that any type of psychotherapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet, every day, mental health professional in our state continue to mislead parents and to subject children to these dangerous practices.

Too many young people have taken their own lives or suffered lifelong harm after being told, falsely, by a therapist or counselor that who they are is wrong, sick or the result of personal or moral failure.

We must ensure that no child is subjected to this damaging and discredited practice. Please support this crucial bill.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

DRAFT FACEBOOK POST

We need your help and there’s no time to waste. Committees in the Virginia House and Senate are voting TODAY on legislation that prohibits therapists from trying to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Email or call ASAP to ask them to support the bill.

Please share!

DRAFT TWEETS

URGENT Tell #VA legislators to support bill protecting #LGBT children from #ConversionTherapy #BornPerfect

The Cost of Awareness

By Sam Ames#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

The suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn has prompted widespread media attention, including a focus on her description of how being sent to conversion therapy increased her sense of isolation and rejection. Now more than ever before, it is clear that there is an urgent need for more public discussion and education around the harms caused by conversion therapy. But some aspects of the recent conversations have been troubling.

I’ve spent the last several years working with survivors of these dangerous and discredited practices at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which has been at the forefront of this issue for two decades. Six months ago, we launched our #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy for good, rooted in empowering those survivors to tell their stories in healing ways through advocacy and leadership. In conversations with both survivors and advocates since Leelah’s death, I’ve become increasingly aware of something that isn’t easy to address but that I can’t stay silent about anymore. Of all those weighing in on this horrific tragedy, some voices – including those of conversion therapy survivors—have been notably quieter and different in tone than others, and I think we need to talk about why.

While it’s impossible to deny that Leelah Alcorn’s final words have been a wake-up call to many who didn’t even know conversion therapy was still an issue, we need to make sure that the ways we talk about this aren’t risking anyone else’s safety. I’ve been thrilled to see a lot of discussions taking place over the last few weeks between individuals and organizations wanting to put an end to these ineffective and harmful practices. These conversations are long overdue. But they can also be triggering.

History tells us we should be wary of sudden calls to action that glorify victims of suicide, point fingers at simplified causes, or sensationalize details of an already gut-wrenching death. Before engaging on this issue, I’d encourage folks to check out ReportingOnSuicide.org,  a great resource on ways to prevent suicide contagion–something that occurs when a suicide is reported on in a way that contributes to another suicide. The cost of this moment is already too high. We can’t afford to let it get any higher. The best way we can honor Leelah’s memory isn’t an easy fix—as appealing as that is—but doing the hard, long-term work of making sure all ‪#‎LGBT kids feel safe and supported in their communities, their families, and their homes.