New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Monday banning the controversial practice of "conversion" therapy for gay youth. It is a victory for gay rights groups that have long been trying to get the Republican governor to reverse his position on same-sex marriage.
The law forbids licensed therapists from using therapy to try to change the sexual orientation of minors. New Jersey is the second state, after California, to ban the practice.
Christie said that while he is concerned about "government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children,'' he sided with expert opinion from the American Psychological Association that the practice can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse in teenagers.
Christie is cruising to re-election in November despite New Jersey's Democratic lean. But as a likely 2016 presidential candidate who will have to appeal to party conservatives in the Iowa caucuses, Christie has walked a careful line on gay issues.
Last year Christie vetoed a same-sex marriage law, saying he wants a statewide referendum on the issue, and severely criticized the Supreme Court's decision striking down a ban on federal rights for same-sex married couples. At the same time, the governor said he is "adamant'' that same-sex couples deserve equal legal protection and vows to abide by a same-sex marriage law if the voters approve it.
Christie "did the right thing" by banning conversion therapy, Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP gay rights group, said in a statement. "We may disagree with the governor on the issue of marriage, but it's good to see that we see eye-to-eye when it comes to the dangers of nonsensical 'ex-gay' therapy and treating all life with dignity.''
Martha T. Moore, USA TODAY