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New Jersey Now Protects Kids from Ex-Gay Therapy

New Jersey Now Protects Kids from Ex-Gay Therapy

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Monday signed a ban on so-called ex-gay therapy for minors, issuing some interesting comments alongside his eleventh hour approval of the bill.

Said Christie in a statement released to the press:

“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. Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly,” Christie said.

“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,” he added. “I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate. Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.”

The legislation in question means that from now on those licensed to provide counseling services in the state are no longer allowed to attempt “sexual orientation change efforts” with any patient under the age of 18. The ban does not affect situations involving a patient older than that age. The legislation specifically states, however, that “Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.”

The bill received overwhelming support in the legislature earlier this year, passing the state Senate with a 28-9 vote and the state Assembly with a 56-14 vote.

As noted above, Christie had at first appeared wary of the legislation, floating concerns that the bill infringed on parental rights. That Christie ultimately did sign the bill appears in line with his previous statements on sexuality that he does not believe homosexuality is a sin.

Interestingly, even if Christie had not signed the bill, the legislation passed through both chambers with enough bipartisan support to muster a veto proof majority. Whether that would have been invoked, however, is debatable.

Christie is seeking re-election this year, and makes this decision to sign the ban on ex-gay therapy for minors in no small part against the larger backdrop of a widely tipped 2016 Republican presidential campaign. As such, Christie continues to walk a fine line between pleasing liberals on several issues, for instance on Friday he issued a recommendation in favor of allowing children to access medical marijuana, while also speaking to his conservative base by, say, vetoing three gun control measures.

“He recognizes what many opponents of marriage equality do not recognize, which is that gay people are not in need of treatment,” state senator Raymond Lesniak (D) is quoted as saying. “That’s certainly an important statement to make and he made that with his signing of the bill.”

Lesniak went on to say that marriage equality would be the next “natural step.” Not for the Governor, however.

Christie vetoed a same-sex marriage bill in 2012 and, with lawmakers once again looking to revisit the issue, he issued a stark warning that he would not hesitate to institute a veto a second time around and urged the legislature to put the issue to a public referendum.

This is despite growing Republican support for marriage equality in New Jersey and the potential for advocates to find not just a majority for the legislation but a veto proof majority at that. Christie, however, as a Republican candidate for governorship, has an extra cache this year and it would be almost unthinkable that Republicans would vote to override his wishes so close to re-election.

Regardless, marriage equality may arrive another way for New Jersey. A marriage equality lawsuit is currently awaiting judgement that attempts to establish per the wealth of established law, including the Supreme Court of the United State’s ruling against DOMA Section 3, that New Jersey’s civil unions law renders same-sex couples as second class and violates both state and federal guarantees of equal rights.

The only other state to have passed a ban on conversion attempts for minors is California. There, the legislation is currently on hold after so-called ex-gay therapists sued, claiming the ban infringed their freedom of speech, parental rights and freedom of religion.

New Jersey has seen its own ex-gay therapy lawsuit, but of a different kind: the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sued on behalf of four men and their mothers contending that the New Jersey-city based organization Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a well known ex-gay therapy group, violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by offering ex-gay therapy when the therapy has never been proven either effective or safe.

That case is set to be heard in the next few months. It seems inevitable that New Jersey’s ban on ex-gay therapy for minors will feature in the SPLC’s arguments.

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Image credit: Thinkstock.

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48 comments

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7:44AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

What's the "homosexual agenda"? Why should someone who's gay want to or think they can change their sexual orientation? Are there services, counselors and support groups to help a straight person along a journey to becoming gay??

12:38AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

Yet the media and EVERY thing, even cartoons, is profuse with promoting-propoganda and subliminal indoctronation to our kids and teen that multiple lovers at one time and girls going down on other girls, and men screwing men is what they should be doing. Videos with Miley, Gaga, Micky Menage (or whatever) all promote a homosexual agenda, along with nearly every show. I literaly watch tv with my son and point out in each program the blatant messages being conveyed. He sees it himself and notices the pattern.

Apparently this is a therapy people have sought out, it is an option to help those who want to live a heterosexual, usually, Christian lifestyle and no one has the right to regulate what is available to the public.

If I was gay and wanted to change and didn't know how, I should be able to find services, counselors, and support groups to assist me in my journey, whether the government approves of it or not. point blank.

2:40PM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

I am certainly no fan of any Republican politician, but Christie has proven not all Republicans are out to destroy America and her citizens. I respect most of his actions the last several years in putting the Citizens of New Jersey best interest first and Republican ideology last.

11:44PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Chris Christie continues to surprise me! Very glad he passed this bill into law. Ex-Gay therapy is nothing but ignorance and total abuse and should be banned everywhere.

10:00PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Way to go, New Jersey! It's so nice to get good news like this, and to see that not all government is stoopid. I'll bet there are some individuals behind this, though, who deserve serious recognition. I salute them, each and every one!

7:42PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

well done. a republican with a brain that actually works. WOW! what a rare commodity.

7:41PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

I can only try to work to make Tennessee smart enough to follow suit.

4:52PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Gee I wonder which Republican's are making money off this crap !!!

4:41PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

I would expect that since Governor Putin has signed this bill to prohibit anti gay propaganda that we will be boycotting the New Jersey Olympics said no one on the left.

3:40PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

While I understand some people's concerns that this takes away parental rights, the truth is that the state does have a vested interest in making sure children aren't abused, tortured, or neglected by their parents. Being forced into a "therapy" that has been proven to be not only ineffective, but harmful, could be considered torture or abuse. Of course, sometimes we have to be harmed in order to get good care - a spinal or bone marrow tap is incredibly painful, but the benefits of the information these procedures provide far outweigh the temporary pain. The pain of ex-gay "therapy" isn't temporary and the "therapy" has been shown to not work. Unending pain with no benefit sounds like torture and abuse to me.

I'm glad that Christie did the right thing here, but I second Dotti. I don't trust him, and here's why: He signed this bill which says,"[b]eing lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming." So, if being LGBT isn't a disease, disorder, illness or any other sort of deficiency, then why isn't it OK for them to get married? What legal (not religious) argument can be used to justify denying them the fundamental right of marriage? It makes no sense to me that on one hand he says LGBT people aren't deficient in any way, and then turn around and deny them the right to marriage. I think this is all just political posturing for a possible future run for POTUS.

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