NEW YORK — New Jersey on Monday became the second state after California to ban so-called conversion therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of gay minors after Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed into law a bill to prohibit the controversial practice.
Christie had been expected to sign the legislation, which passed both houses of the state Legislature in June.
In a signing letter released after Christie signed the legislation, he said that he took into account concerns about the government “limiting parental choice” in the treatment of their children.
“However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,” the governor added. “The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.
“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate. Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.”
Christie, a Roman Catholic who is considered a likely 2016 presidential contender, opposes same-sex marriage, and his state is one of two in the northeast that does not recognize gay marriages. On Monday, the governor’s office pointed to a comment he made to CNN in which he said that despite his church’s stance, Christie has “always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual.”
The anti-conversion therapy bill, A-3371, declares that being “lesbian, gay or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency or shortcoming,” and it bans licensed therapists from providing gay-to-straight conversion therapy to children under age 18.
A lawsuit prevented California’s ban on conversion therapy for minors from taking effect at the start of this year, and the legislation remains on hold. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed last December to block the law pending a decision on its constitutionality. Opponents say it violates free speech rights.