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EDITORIAL: NJ law banning conversion therapy remains

Supreme Court declined to take case challenging law protecting progress

The fields of medicine and science are not immune to the manipulation of prejudice. Etched into our American history are medical practices targeting certain groups under the guise of scientific justification. Without a wholesale rejection of empiricism, there must be an acknowledgement of the reality that implicit and explicit biases can drive scientific conclusions to legitimize horrific acts of degradation, dehumanization and social harm.

In this nation of liberty and prosperity, the barbarism of coerced sterilization was written in our legal framework and condoned as “federally funded sterilization programs took place in 32 states throughout the 20th century.” The eugenics crusade in America ascended from obscurity to mainstream acceptance by the 1920s. 

Under the rhetoric of improving society and the human species, eugenics was taught in schools, celebrated by academics and preached from the pulpits. States across the country passed laws allowing for eugenic sterilization. The United States quickly became a bastion of persecution and sadistic “genetic” cleansing that provided the model for Nazi Germany.

American racism and institutional indoctrination of eugenics influenced Adolf Hitler as he had recognized, “There is today one state in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception (of citizenship) are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.”

We do not need to look far in our nation’s history to witness the shameful practices of sterilization. It was discovered in recent years that California prisons had authorized the sterilizations of nearly 150 female inmates between 2006 and 2010, many of whom claimed they were coerced into it. California was a leader of eugenics sterilization as one of the many states that adopted legislation. New Jersey was also among the states to pass similar laws.

Crude theories of human heredity were adorned as masks to cover the ugly and destructive prejudice that feeds on fear and peddles hate targeting those deemed either dangerous to values or undesired intrusions in our society. Those masks are still worn today.

Though medically discredited and understood as immorally harmful, in 2019, gay-to-straight conversion therapy is still not federally prohibited. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has condemned the practice as being “based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder.”

In the U.S. alone, approximately 698,000 LGBTQ Americans have undergone some form of conversion therapy to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some states have taken the mantle of rights and justice, passing legislation prohibiting the practice. 

New Jersey passed a law in 2013 forbidding reparative or conversion therapy for minors. Former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), recounting the studies and statements of the APA, justified the measure as a means of constraining a practice that “can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.”

Conversion therapy is at best ineffective and at its worst, terribly harmful to the individual. This has led many advocacy organizations to confront the persistence of the practice in national culture. In 2015, New Jersey became the home of the first consumer fraud lawsuit, Ferguson v. JONAH, that successfully shut down a conversion therapy organization as the Southern Poverty Law Center set out to make an essential step of legal action to eliminate the immoral practice.

This past Monday, April 15, the Supreme Court declined to take the case challenging New Jersey’s law banning conversion therapy therefore allowing the law to remain as a settled protection of the LGBTQ+ community in the state.

“In rejecting this case today, the Supreme Court recognized what every sensible and compassionate person across New Jersey and this country knows: anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy is dangerous, discredited malpractice," said Christian Fuscarino, Garden State Equality executive director in a statement by the largest LGBT advocacy organization in New Jersey.  

The challenge to the New Jersey law must be taken as a reminder that the civil rights protections of the LGBTQ+ community is constantly under siege in America. Whether the state is blue or red, the threat to LGBTQ+ rights in America continues.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters    do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company   or  its staff. 

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