Following a three-hour hearing in Trenton Monday night, a New Jersey Senate panel approved a bill that would ban psychiatrists, social workers and family therapists from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age.”
The bill passed the Senate’s health committee with a vote of 7-1 with two abstentions.
The committee heard several stories from victims of the widely-discredited practice, including Brielle Sophia Goldani, a transgender woman forced to undergo conversion therapy at a camp in Ohio who tried to kill herself three times; Troy Stevenson, executive director for Garden State Equality, whose friend committed suicide after his parents sent him to a similar camp; and Jonathan Bier, an 18-year-old college student who was threatened with expulsion from his yeshiva if he didn’t undergo the therapy.
The bill’s main sponsor, openly gay State Assemblyman Tim Eustace, said reparative therapy “constitutes child abuse.” He introduced the bill after “several constituents — young people — came to our office complaining that this still exists.”
In November, four men sued the New Jersey-based Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, accusing the conversion therapy group of psychological abuse and consumer fraud.
Opponents of the bill fear it may intrude on patients’ rights and interfere with the counselor-patient relationship. California passed a similar ban on conversion therapy for minors last September, but that is currently on hold until appeal arguments are heard.
Meanwhile, Jersey’s bill will advance to the full Senate for approval.