Christie Bans Gay Conversion Therapy For Minors

N.J. Governor Bars Licensed Therapists from Using Therapy

Republican Governor Chris Christie on August 19, signed a bill into law that will ban conversion or gay-to-straight therapy for those younger than eighteen.  With this measure, New Jersey becomes the second state (California being the first) to ban therapy that seeks to turn gay teens straight. California, that passed a similar measure in 2012, hasn’t taken effect yet because of a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Signing Note Accompanying the Bill

A potential 2016 Republican contender for presidency of the United States, Christie, a Catholic,  says he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality is not a sin.  He also stated that the health risks of trying to change a child’s sexual orientation outweigh concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice.

Problems with Conversion Therapy

“On the issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,” he expounded. Citing a litany of potential ill effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression, suicide, substance abuse, social withdrawal, and decreased self-esteem. Christie stated : “ I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.” Christie still has concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children.

Last July, the measure was passed by both Democrat-controlled Legislature last June, but it wasn’t definite that Christie would sign the bill into law.  But Christie believed the health concerns trumped issues over the government setting limits on parental choice. This view was  previously expressed by him. With this signing,  Christie, a centrist Republican, is seeking re-election in November and his compromise on this issue is indicative of his efforts to reach a broader base of voters, but not without offending social conservatives, according to political analyists.

Critics of Conversion Therapy

Former New Jersey Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey, who is gay, praised the measure based in “sound psychiatric research.” Openly gay Assembly member Tim Eustace, one of the bill’s sponsors, says conversion therapy amounts to “an insidious form of child abuse.”

The public became more skeptical of the therapy when Exodus International, a Christian group based in California, shuttered its doors last month after being in business for thirty-eight years. Alan Chambers, founder, apologized to gays for the harm he said his group had caused.

Proponents of Reparative Therapy

Chairman and founder of the Liberty Counsel, said the group plans to file suit soon to overturn the New Jersey statute, arguing in part  that “the law is an infringement on parental rights to raise their children the way they see fit or to seek counseling in the wake of traumatic events.  Staver added that the bill provides a “slippery slope of government infringing upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs.” John Tomichi of the League of American Families commented that the laws infringed on a parent’s right to decide the best treatment for his or her child.