New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Monday signed a bill that bans therapists from providing a service to minors that aims to change their sexual orientation.
The bill, which passed in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly in June, would restrict licensed therapists from offering what is commonly referred to as “conversion therapy.”
Christie is only the second governor to sign a law banning the practice for youths. California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a similar law last year, which is currently under review in the federal courts.
In signing the bill into law, Christie issued a statement in which he cited the American Psychological Association’s report that recommended against the practice.
“At the outset of this debate, I expressed my concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children. I still have those concerns,” Christie said in a signing statement.
“Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind. 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 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.”
The decision by Christie, who is considered a possible contender to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, could become a point of debate during the party primary, as it was in the last election. In the run-up to the 2012 Republican primary season, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann came under fire when it was reported that a clinic she owned offered the “conversion” therapy.