Christie Named By Anti-Gay Group As Co-Defendant In Appeal On Conversion Ban Decision
It's not Chris Christie's week. With the "Bridgegate" scandal barely behind him, the New Jersey governor and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful has been named as a co-defendant in an appeal filed by anti-gay group Liberty Counsel to overturn the states recent ban on gay conversion therapy (A3371) signed into law by Christie in August 2013.
After suffering a defeat in November to overturn New Jersey's ban on reparative therapy in the Garden State, the anti-gay litigators from Liberty Counsel came back with an appeal filed Monday with the Third Circuit Court. The appeal, which names the National Association For Research And Therapy Of Homosexuality (NARTH), the American Association of Christian Counselors and two therapists also names Governor Chris Christie along with four other New Jersey state department directors as defendants.
"A3371 is far more scandalous than the George Washington Bridge lane closure," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel in a statement released to the press yesterday. "Gov. Christie signed a bill that blocks licensed counselors from providing help and young people from receiving any counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, mannerisms, or identity. This law is causing immediate harm to young people and to licensed counselors," said Staver.
The 64-page appeal filed by Liberty Counsel yesterday claims that the state's ban on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) for minors violates free speech and religious rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.
"A3371 invades the sacrosanct relationship between counselor and client by prohibiting therapeutic conversations that assist a minor to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity while permitting conversations that affirm or approve them," Staver told the court in the brief.
In November U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson dismissed the first lawsuit brought by the appealing plaintiffs which challenged the legality of the ban on conversion therapy for minors, saying the law did not violate anyone's freedom of speech or religion. "Having found that the statute only regulates conduct, and not speech in any constitutionally protected form, Plaintiffs' arguments regarding the statute" being overly broad "are largely irrelevant," Wolfson said in her opinion.
A3371 prevents any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker or counselor from practicing SOCE with minors. The law does not apply to clergy or non-licensed therapists.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, since 2006, Liberty Counsel has also run its "Change is Possible" campaign with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays to protect people who say they've changed from gay to straight from "discrimination" by "intolerant homosexuals." In October, Staver was honored at the First Annual Ex-Gay Pride and Awareness Dinner presented by ex-gay "advocacy" group Voice of the Voiceless and Parent and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX)