Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy for Minors

Recently in New Jersey, a challenge has been made to the ban on gay conversion therapy for minors. The challenge was from a homosexual 15 year old boy who says that he suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, self-hatred and suicidal thoughts as he and his parents believe that homosexuality is a sin. He and his parents believe that he should be given all treatment available to convert him, especially as homosexuality is fundamentally condemned by their religion. The family also makes it clear that the state should have nothing to do with how they would like to treat their own son and such a ban infringes on their right to free speech, freedom of religion and the 14th amendment right to equal protection.
Christy after signing the ban

The ban on gay therapy for minors was signed into law in August of 2013 by governor Chris Christy in New Jersey and followed in the footsteps of one recently enacted in California. Christy acknowledged at the time that the ban had the potential to limits parent’s choice on how they want to treat their children, but that the risk of exposing children to such a questionable treatment without clear evidence that the benefits outweigh them had caused him to sign the law.
Christy’s concerns about the health risks of the treatment stem from a multitude of studies done by the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association others that prove the therapy to be ineffective in almost all cases.  They note that the side effects of the therapy include depression, anxiety, loss of sexuality and suicidal thoughts. Exposing children to such risks would be a serious threat to their health regardless of the parent’s religion or beliefs.
The salient issue surrounding this is whether the State has overwhelming interest in banning gay conversion therapy, and enough to infringes upon the free speech and religious rights of the parents.
In my opinion, the State does have an overwhelming interest in banning gay conversion therapy for children. The therapy has not been proven to be effective and if anything it has been proven harmful to minors, with awful side effects. Despite both the boy’s claims and that of his parents, I believe that the negative effects of the therapy are substantial enough to burden the parents even if it infringes upon their religious beliefs. Some may argue that because of Wisconsin v. Yoder where the Supreme Court found that they could not require Amish children to be placed in compulsory education past 8th grade as it violated the parent’s right to freedom of religion, I would argue that the effects of gay therapy are much worse than the interest of State in educating its children, and thus it is constitutional to ban such a practice and infringe on the parent’s right to freedom of religion.
Not only that but in Oregon v. Smith the Supreme Court upheld that it was constitutional to refuse an individual their unemployment benefits for violating the ban on the use of peyote, even though it was used for a religious ceremony. In some cases, the interest of the State will conflict with the religious beliefs of the individual and it is in these cases that if there is overwhelming evidence of the danger of such drugs (or therapy) we must listen to and respect the State over religion. The State would not be hindering the religion as a whole by banning gay therapy but rather they would be making sure that the children are protected.
Judge Wolfson, who stated the majority opinion for an earlier challenge to the ban, claimed that the statute did not even restrict freedom of religion as it is neutral towards all religions. Even if the ban “disproportionately affects those motivated by religious belief” she argued that the ban is looking out for the best interest of the children, and the State has a right to intervene in such cases.
I agree with Wolfson and I think that this ban is a step in the right direction for the entire LGBT community to make such therapies illegal, especially for minors who cant even make the choice to attend or not. Imagine is a young child was forced to go through such therapy by their parents! The overwhelming evidence shows that the therapy has terrible consequences and even if it is in the opinion of the parent’s that the children should attend the therapy, the state has an overwhelming interest to ban it regardless if the parents objections are due to their religion.

What do you think?  Should the State ban gay conversion therapy for minors or should it be up to the parents to decide how to treat their own children based on their religious beliefs?


Mackenzie Y said...

I think that the concerns about the well being of the kids should obviously be the most important thing to consider in the decision to ban gay conversion therapy for minors. I agree with the author that the state has a compelling interest in banning this therapy. It is evident that the minors detrimentally affected by gay conversion therapy need to have their interests taken into account, not just the interests of their parents. I agree with Judge Wolfson additionally that the ban is neutral toward religion and does not restrict the free exercise of religion.

Kristen B. said...

I think that the state definitely has an interest in banning gay conversion therapy. The negative effects of conversion therapy show that is has abusive effects and children needed to be protected. The ban is neutral towards religion because it is protecting children from harm. The ban doesn't effect a religious belief it only effects actions that could be an effect of a religious belief.

Tommy S said...

The key here is the studies done by the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association that present evidence of the harmful effects of gay conversion therapy. It is important that the state due their due diligence before instituting a law that concerns religious rights. They must have solid and clear evidence that they have a compelling state interest to create this law. I think they have done this and think that the law is constitutional.

Courtney W. said...

I think the state has a compelling state interest to uphold the ban on gay conversion therapy. Both the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association firmly believe that gay conversion therapy is detrimental and that it has long lasting negative effects. I agree with Kristen in that the ban does not directly burden religion.