New Jersey just became the second state in the U.S. to outlaw the practice of so-called sexual orientation change efforts, also known as "ex-gay" or "reparative" therapy, that seeks to turn gay people straight.
With Republican governor Chris Christie's signature on the bill Monday morning, New Jersey banned the scientifically discredited practice on minors, which advocates testified before the state legislature amounts to little more than child abuse. The legislation passed through both chambers of the legislature with bipartisan support, but Christie was hesitant to confirm whether or not he would sign the bill into law. Monday was his last day to either sign the bill or veto it; if the governor had done neither, the bill would have become law by default.
Christie told CNN that he was still concerned that the legislation indicates "government limiting parental choice," but he ultimately sided with overwhelming scientific evidence proving that sexual orientation efforts are harmful to those subjected to them.
"The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientations can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts," Christie said while signing the bill, according to CNN. "I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate."
The bill is based on similar landmark legislation in California, and prohibits licensed therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation of minors.
LGBT advocates heralded the bill's passage. Garden State Equality told The New Civil Rights Movement that "there is no greater achievement than helping to stop the abuse of our youth."
"Today’s SOCE ban will do just that," continued the organization's executive director, Troy Stevenson. "It will protect young people from being abused by those they should trust the most, their parents and their 'doctors.' Garden State Equality thanks Assemblyman Tim Eustace and Sen, Raymond Lesniak for championing this law. We also commend the governor for signing this legislation, and we hope he is true to his word. We hope that his realization, that there is nothing wrong with our LGBT youth — and that there is nothing about them that needs to be fixed — will lead to a further evolution. It is our truest hope that the Governor will realize as the majority of the legislature and a super majority of the New Jersey public have realized, that the best way to ensure our LGBT youth are protected from the abuse of being ostracized, is to provide them with equality. We must provide all N.J. youth with acceptance, with hope for the future and yes, the promise of the dignity to marry the person that they love."
Truth Wins Out, a national organization that combats what it calls the "ex-gay myth," also celebrated the law's passage. "New Jersey's LGBT youth are safer today because an abusive practice has been banned that destroys families and shatters lives," said executive director Wayne Besen. "The New Jersey law gives tremendous momentum for moving forward with new efforts to protect LGBT youth across the nation. We must remember that conversion therapy isn't a legitimate form of therapy, but a political marketing gimmick designed to demonize and stigmatize LGBT people. This is why it is rejected by every respected mainstream medical and mental health association in America."