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New Jersey Committee Advances Ban On ‘Conversion Therapy’

Gay Pride Flag (file / credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Gay Pride Flag (file / credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

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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.

If the measure does pass the state legislature, Rudolph said he does not know whether Christie will sign it into law, but said he is hopeful.

“Hopefully, he has not only the bill on his desk but also the stack of over 100,000 signatures off my petition asking him to aprobate the bill. It would be in his best interest politically and I think that as a human being, he has an obligation to sign the bill into law because there are children in his state that are currently being tortured and being subjected to practices that should not be allowed,” Rudolph told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot.

On the other side of the issue, Carol Gallentine said the bill violates her rights as a parent.

“That’s why I don’t understand why you people are trying to come into our homes and tells what to do with our minor children,” she said.

But Brielle Goldani said she had no rights when her parents sent her to a gay conversion therapy program as a teenager.

“Twice a week I was hooked up to electrodes on my hands,” she said. “I, a child, was shocked repeatedly by people who had my parents’ permission to torture me.”

Christopher Doyle, who calls himself a “former homosexual,” claimed that counseling turned him into a heterosexual man. Attending with his wife, son and daughter, Doyle now works for a gay conversion therapy group and claimed that shock treatments do not exist.

“No one should have to go through that,” said Doyle, of the International Healing Foundation. “That’s not a mainstream practice of professional counselors.”

But testimony about the damage that ex-gay therapy can cause continued. Mordechai Levovitz came out at his high school, and is the head of a group supporting gays and lesbians in the Orthodox Jewish community.

“Obviously these forced interventions didn’t work,” Levovitz said. “I am still a gay man, I am still feminine and sometimes I pretend I am a princess.”

New Jersey would become the second state to ban so-called conversion therapy if the measure is signed into law. Last September, California became the first state to ban curative therapy for children under the age of 18.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)