Gov. Chris Christie is expected today to sign legislation that will bar licensed therapists in New Jersey from trying to turn gay minors straight, a move that will make the Garden State only the second state in the union to outlaw so-called gay conversion therapy.
Calling conversion therapy “controversial” is overly kind. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist who first popularized the idea, has since repudiated his own work and apologized. Exodus International, the “ex-gay” ministry that was arguably the movement’s most public proponent, has likewise shut its doors. It’s also been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association, which found that such “therapy” seriously increases patients’ risk of suicide, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
It is those health risks that Christie will reference in a signing statement that will accompany the new law, according to an advanced copy obtained by the Associated Press. “Government should tread carefully into this area,” Christie states in the note, “and I do so here reluctantly.” The note continues:
“However, I also believe that on the issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,” Christie said, citing a litany of potential ill effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression and suicide. “I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”
According to the AP, the signing note also makes it clear that Christie believes some people are born gay, and that homosexuality is not a sin—noteworthy statements given Christie is a Catholic. Christie previously vetoed gay marriage legislation in the state.