Assemblyman Tim Eustace described it as "an insidious form of child abuse." The American Psychological Association has shown evidence that it causes physical scarring, and mental and emotional damage. It repeatedly leads to depression and substance abuse in both minors and adults. But thankfully on Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a stand against gay conversion therapy stating that he will sign a bill next Monday barring licensed therapists from the practice. Also known as “reparative therapy,” the practice is used to attempt to make gay minors straight through methods like electric shock therapy, vomit-inducing drugs, and even in one case, making men strip naked and attack effigies of their mothers with baseball bats.
After much uncertainty over the governor’s upcoming choice, New Jersey is now the second state after California to ban this form of therapy for minors, and hopefully it won't be the last. Not only is this a step forward for gay rights and universal equality, it's a crucial protection for children against harmful parental practices.
Gay-rights activists pushing the ban were particularly unsure about Christie’s decision since, as a Catholic, he understands that homosexuality has never been popular with the church. Christie’s office had however made clear that the governor doesn’t believe in gay conversion therapy or believe that homosexuality is a sin. Not only that, but as a politician dealing with parents' rights, as Christie said, “Government should tread carefully into this area, and I do so here reluctantly.” Here Christie refers to the fact that there is a very fine line the government can walk before it can intercede into family life, and that can often cause social upheaval. Nonetheless, according to Christie, mounting evidence has proven that gay conversion therapy is too damaging to children and thus warrants government intervention.
“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,” said Christie. “Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.”
In addition to its implications for gay rights, this bill brings up more debate about the rights of parents to make independent decisions for their children. Consequently, some social conservatives argued that a ban on counseling would limit the ability of parents to do what they think is best for their child. Tara King, a Brick-based counselor, also argued that she should be allowed to "fix" what patients, even underage clients, want fixed.
However, these arguments were seen as too weak to justify the damaging practice. Modern social contracts that demand nothing less than a complete ban are put in place since gay conversion therapy is being increasingly see for what it is — a form of child abuse.
While this bill may have alienated some Christian conservatives and will likely be revisited during Christie’s expected run in the 2016 presidential election, it will likely be viewed as a positive step for equal rights and safe therapeutic practices.