A group that supports "reparative" therapy to help people escape unwanted same-sex attractions is cheering a vote by Texas Republicans to endorse such counseling in their party platform.
Meanwhile, a trial court in New Jersey has ruled against a Jewish change-therapy group, saying that if they are found guilty of consumer fraud, they can be asked to repay maximum damages to their former clients.
The battle over whether sexual orientation can be changed is a burgeoning front in the gay-rights culture war.
Gay-rights allies say sexual orientation is inborn and/or enduring, so therapies seeking to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction is futile, cruel and harmful.
Others argue that if someone doesn't want to be sexually attracted to people of the same sex, he has a right to seek help.
Groups on both sides claim that psychology and psychiatry support their view — and that more research is needed to eventually settle questions about sexual orientation.
The issue was politicized in 2012, when California lawmakers passed a law forbidding state-licensed therapists from providing sexual-orientation change efforts, known as SOCE, for teens and children.
New Jersey passed a similar law in 2013, and New York and Massachusetts are actively considering such measures.
At a recent briefing on New York's bills, gender-therapy expert Dr. Jack Drescher said most professional therapy organizations agree that sexual-orientation change efforts "are outside the mainstream" of mental-health practice.
"The theories upon which they are based have no scientific basis," Dr. Drescher said, according to a report issued by the office of New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Democrat and lead sponsor of the ban in his chamber.
A different headline emerged this week from Texas, where some 7,000 Republicans voted to endorse "reparative" therapy in the party platform.
Texas Republicans "recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle," said the platform language. "No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy," it added.
"The push back begins," said the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), whose members include licensed mental health professionals who often provide reparative therapies.
NARTH leaders have also gone to court to challenge California and New Jersey's bans on SOCE for minors.
In California, federal judges split on the constitutionality of that state's SB 1172. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld the ban as legal. Therapist David Pickup, who personally benefited from SOCE and provides SOCE counseling; NARTH; and other supporters of SOCE are asking the Supreme Court to review their case against SB 1172.
In New Jersey, Tara King — who, like Mr. Pickup, is a former homosexual who provides SOCE — is joining NARTH and others in a challenge of New Jersey's SOCE ban.
A lower court has found the New Jersey law to be legal; King v. Christie is on appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Separately, in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed by attorneys with Southern Poverty Law Center, four men and two of their mothers are suing Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) and two of its associates.
On Friday, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. handed Michael Ferguson and his co-plaintiffs a victory — if they win in court next year, they may seek "ascertained losses" and costs they incurred to undo JONAH's counseling. The four men — whose sessions lasted between five weeks and 18 months with costs ranging from $500 to several thousand dollars — are suing JONAH under state consumer-fraud law.
Lawyers for JONAH and co-defendants Arthur Goldberg and Alan Downing say the consumer-fraud law is being misused to advance a political agenda, and that change therapies can help some people "reorient" to heterosexuality.
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