The controversial practice known as "conversion therapy" would be banned for minors in New Jersey under a bill that has cleared an Assembly panel today.  The measure is designed to protect minors from being forced to undergo the scientifically unfounded practice in an attempt to change their sexual orientation.

"Studies and personal testimony have shown this practice creates irreparable harm on young people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality," said Assemblyman Tim Eustace, one of the bill's sponsor.  "Forcing someone to deny their innate feelings and their very existence has let to depression, suicidal tendencies and other untold harm.  Leading psychological professionals agree that this practice has no place in legitimate mental health therapies."

The American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the American Psychiatric Association along with other groups condemn the practice.

"All of the leading mental health associations in this country have discounted this practice in favor of positive reinforcements," said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, one of the bill's sponsors. 

"The benefits of the practice are unfounded and, in fact, it has proven to do more harm than good in many cases.  our youth should not be forced to undergo such clinically disparaged practices."

The bill would prohibit counseling to change the sexual orientation of a minor.  Under the provisions of the bill, a person who provides professional counseling of any kind should not engage in "sexual orientation changing efforts" with people under 18 years old.

"Sexual orientation change efforts" are defined as the practice of seeking to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity or to reduce or eliminate sexual romantic attractions, feelings, or behaviors because those attractions, feelings, or behavior are directed toward a person of a particular gender or both genders.

The bill now awaits consideration by the full body in each house.