TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey state Senate panel has advanced a bill that would bar licensed therapists from trying to convert minors from gay to heterosexual.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee’s vote on Monday moves the bill to the full Senate.
At a committee hearing Monday, dozens of people from both sides offered impassioned testimony. Many said they had been harmed by “conversion therapy,” or “ex-gay therapy.”
“The damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide,” said gay rights activist Ryan Kendall.
Kendall said he was sent to reparative therapy at the age of 16.
“This must stop,” Kendall said. “We would not tolerate this type of practice for any other group in society. We would not send black children to racial conversion therapy, women to gender conversion therapy or Christians to Atheist conversion therapy.”
Jonathan Bier, an 18-year-old college student, said he was told he’d be kicked out of yeshiva if he didn’t undergo conversion therapy.
“The therapy involved my reading specific portions of the Bible over and over on a weekly basis for the year. I was told about the dangers of homosexuality – how it’s connected to disease, mental illness, a life of unhappiness,” Bier testified. “This hurt me deeply, to this day I’m still affected.”
Mordecai Lubovitch, who is from a strict orthodox Jewish family, said he was forced into conversion therapy at age 6 and says it shamed him.
“I was made to think that for me to be healthy I must play sports, speak in a low voice and keep my wrists from going limp,” Lubovitch testified. “I didn’t want to do any of this. I was happy with the way I was.”
Parsippany High School senior Jacob Rudolph, whose coming out speech during a school awards ceremony has been watched more than 1.7 million times on YouTube, also testified in support of the legislation.
Rudolph started an online petition on Change.org urging Gov. Chris Christie to support the pending legislation.
“Gov. Christie must be made to understand how critical such legislation is to protecting the thousands of teens like me from the dangers of gay conversion therapy,” Rudolph wrote. “Major psychological, psychiatric, and counseling associations have found this ineffective and scientifically unsound practice to be harmful for young people.”
More than 111,000 people have signed the petition.