New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official website] signed Assembly Bill 3371 [legislative record] into law on Monday, banning licensed therapists from providing sexual orientation conversion services to minors. New Jersey is now the second state to ban such practices following a similar ban in California [JURIST report] last September. Christie publicly addressed the controversial issue [press release], deferring to medical experts that have shown such practices can be detrimental to the psychological health of children. He also expressed concern [signing statement] about limiting the autonomy of parents in the making healthcare choices for their minor children, but insisted that the public benefits far outweighed such a restriction:
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 act is set to take immediate effect.
The practice of conversion therapy has come under scrutiny lately. Last November, four men sued a conversion therapy group [JURIST report] in New Jersey, claiming that the practice was a breeding ground for discrimination and fraud. California's legislation, the first of its kind in the US, was approved by the California State Assembly last August and by the California Senate [JURIST reports] in May of last year. Supporters of the bill asserted that the underlying reason for the legislation is that homosexuality is not a disease and that therapies to reverse homosexuality were found to have detrimental effects on minors' physical and mental health, leading to suicides and substance abuse. Conversely, groups such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) [advocacy website] voiced their opposition, arguing that most of the facts relied on in the bill are generalizations and loose assertions. According to some experts, California's efforts to pass the ban on sexual orientation therapy highlighted a need for better gender identity standards [JURIST op-ed].