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Illustration by NHM

Illustration by NHM

A gay teen from New Jersey has come out swinging against conversion therapy. Jacob Rudolph, an 18-year-old senior at Parsippany High School, launched a new petition on Change.org urging Governor Chris Christie to ban the dangerous practice, saying it’s not only been debunked, but it’s dangerous to LGBT teens.

The openly gay high school student is asking the governor to support pending legislation that would ban the use of controversial therapy on minors – similar to what happened in California last year. The practice, which attempts to change the sexual orientation of children through prayer and punishment, has been blasted as ineffective and dangerous by groups like the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association.

The NJ teen decided to take on the challenge after coming out at a school assembly earlier this year. A video of Rudolph’s coming out speech, posted on YouTube by his father, has already been viewed more than 1.7 million times.

“Every single day, kids across the state are forced to lie or feel shame about who they really are for fear of being rejected by their families and friends, or worse, being forced to undergo harmful ‘therapy’ intended to fix what is not broken,” Rudolph says. “I’m incredibly lucky to have parents who love me just the way I am. I hope Governor Christie agrees with my parents, and the more than 27,000 people who have signed my petition, that all New Jersey kids deserve to be loved and protected.”

The teen also reminds NJ legislators that The American Psychiatric Association has said that this type of anti-gay therapy actually puts teens at a much greater risk for depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, not to mention suicide. Consider Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers students who jumped to his death after being outed by his college roommate. While Clementi was not directly involved in conversion therapy, it can be argued that perpetuating these myths only ever creates a hostile environment for teens thinking about coming out. Banning it in the state would send a clear message that punishing LGBT teens is simply not acceptable.

Need more proof? The CDC and The Trevor Project have reported that LGBT youth are four-times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. This number doubles to eight times if the teens come from families that reject the child’s sexual orientation or insist on conversion therapy. Click here to watch Rudolph talk to Joy Behar about his own experience coming out in a supportive home.

“By supporting this bill, Gov. Christie has an opportunity not just to protect kids from the emotional damage of dangerous anti-gay conversion therapy, but to save lives as well,” says Rudolph.

There’s still no word on Gov. Christie’s decision.

Click here to sign the petition and view the signature totals in real time.

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