On September 11, 2014 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey’s law banning “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), affirming an earlier district court decision that upheld the law. The Third Circuit’s decision is a victory for RBGG’s clients, who are survivors of the anti-gay therapies known as sexual orientation change efforts, as well as the sister of a man who committed suicide after being subjected to SOCE as a child. RBGG filed an amicus brief in support of the New Jersey law on behalf of its clients earlier this year.
In its 74-page decision, the Third Circuit found that A3371, the New Jersey law banning SOCE, was a valid regulation of professional speech, in that it “directly advances New Jersey’s stated interest in protecting minor citizens from harmful professional practices.” The Court noted that the “legislative record demonstrates that over the last few decades a number of well-known, reputable professional and scientific organizations have publicly condemned the practice of SOCE, expressing serious concerns about its potential to inflict harm.”
The New Jersey case comes on the heels of RBGG’s initial and successful representation of these Amici in Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown – two separate lawsuits challenging California’s Senate Bill 1172, which protects LGBT youth from the serious psychological harms caused by state-licensed therapists who use SOCE to try to change their patients’ sexual orientation.
Bloomberg BNA’s U.S. Law Week quoted RBGG’s Blake Thompson on the significance of the ruling in an article published on September 16, “N.J. Ban on Conversion Therapy Upheld; Circuits Split Over Level of Review,” U.S. Law Week, Vol. 83, No. 10, 380-2, 2014.
Thompson notes in the article that although the Third Circuit ‘‘approached the legal question differently than the Ninth Circuit [in Pickup] and applied a higher level of scrutiny to the New Jersey law,’’ both ‘‘reached the same result in upholding the law.’’
He goes on to say that the court ‘‘not only credited the Legislature’s reliance on the conclusions of the scientific community that SOCE is harmful, but also bolstered those conclusions with its own observation that such harm is ‘highly plausible,’ given that a person’s sexual orientation is a ‘fundamental aspect of’ their identity. That acknowledgment and the decision is consistent with recent successes by same-sex couples in marriage equality cases, where courts are increasingly recognizing that all people should have the freedom to marry the person they choose.”
The case is King v. Governor of the State Of New Jersey, No. 13-4429. You can find a copy of the opinion here: King v. Christie opinion 091114.