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NJ Teen Activist Launches Campaign Against Conversion Therapy

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Mar 1, 2013
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The New Jersey teen whose passionate coming out video went viral in January is now campaigning to ban gay conversion therapy for minors in the state, NJ.com reports.

Jacob Rudolph, 18, launched an online petition that urges New Jersey lawmakers to pass a bill that would make it illegal for minors to undergo the controversial conversion therapy. Supporters of the therapy claim that it can turn gay men and women straight but the American Psychiatric Association has condemned any "psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation."

"Currently, the New Jersey state legislature is considering a bill that would protect minors from the harmful, discredited practice of gay conversion therapy, which subjects teens to psychologically damaging ’treatment’ by so-called psychology counselors who falsely claim they can ’fix’ the sexual orientation of children who identify as being LGBT," Rudolph writes in his petition. As of this writing, more than 100,000 people have signed the petition and 47,193 signatures are needed.

Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-20) introduced the measure in October and the bill has been referred to the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

"Unfortunately, Gov. Chris Christie has not yet said he will support this crucial legislation," Rudolph wrote. "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."

A spokesman for Christie spoke with NJ.com and said the governor’s office would look at the bill in its final form if the committee and the legislature pass it. When it clears those hurdles, Christie’s officials would "give it careful review and take into consideration all input we receive from the public," Michael Drewniak told the publication.

Rudolph also cites the APA’s criticism of conversion therapy and writes, "Major psychological, psychiatric, and counseling associations have found this ineffective and scientifically unsound practice to be harmful for young people. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association has concluded that a great risk of depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior result from anti-gay conversion therapy.

"According to the CDC and the Trevor Project, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers," the teen adds. "And, that number doubles to 8 times more likely if LGB youth come from families that reject the child’s sexual orientation"

In January Rudolph made headlines after a number of media outlets reported on and shared the teen’s coming out speech, which he made during his high school superlative award ceremony. Rudolph won the award for Class Actor and told over 300 of his classmates that he has "been acting every single day of my life... you see me acting the part of straight Jacob, when I’m in fact, an LGBT -- lesbian gay bisexual and transgender."

He later explained that he wanted to come out as LGBT rather than identify as one particular orientation because he wanted other teens to know they’re not alone, NJ.com notes. Rudolph’s video, which was uploaded by his father, now has over 1.7 million views on YouTube.

NJ.com points out that conversion therapy in the state is rare but in November, it was reported that four gay men filed a lawsuit in Hudson County, N.J., Superior Court against a conversion therapy group, that claimed it can turn gay men straight. The men’s suit argues that the practice’s methods did not work and that it constitutes as fraud under the state’s consumer laws.

It should also be noted that if Christie does sign off on the bill, New Jersey would not be the first state to ban the therapy for minors. In October the Associated Press reported that California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a legislation that made the state the first in the country to ban the conversion from minors. The law went into effect in January.

Watch Rudolph’s coming out speech below:

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