Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem
Gay Pride Parade in JerusalemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill Monday outlawing therapy that aims to “convert” gay children to heterosexuals, making New Jersey the second state to ban the controversial practice, the New York Times reports. Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, issued a statement fervently opposing the bill that will prohibit therapists and counselors from treating minors seeking to overcome same-sex attraction.

The Republican Governor reportedly waited to sign the bill at the very last possible minute because we was “of two minds” on it. On the one hand, he believes that parents should make their own calculations on raising their children; on the other hand, he does not believe in conversion therapy which aims to “cure” homosexual attraction.

Christie attempted to keep in mind the conservative primary-state voters, who would see the bill as government intrusion into child-rearing.

Agudath Israel of America claims that the bill is intrusive on “the rights of mental health therapists to engage freely in their profession, and it unfairly denies teenagers seeking therapy for issues that are troubling them the ability to obtain professional help.”

However, the American Psychiatric Association claimed that the therapy can cause “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior” and has, therefore, lost significant support in recent years.

Even as medical groups dispute whether sexual orientation can be changed, Agudath Israel says that minors who sincerely want to obtain professional help will have nowhere to turn.

“Under the new law, therapists, social workers or counselors who work with minors on these issues risk losing their licenses to practice their professions,” Agudath Israel wrote in their statement.

Governor Christie said that he still has concerns about intruding onto parents’ rights. “However,” he added, “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.”

For gay rights advocates, the new bill is a signal for an “evolution” for the governor, a Roman Catholic who last year vetoed legislation that would have allowed same-sex marriage.

Agudath Israel views the new bill as a “threat to civil and religious liberties”. 

“We believe that the new law, like a similar one in California that has been challenged in court and whose implementation is currently blocked, is constitutionally suspect.  We will study the New Jersey law carefully and consult with mental health professionals in our community, as we consider all appropriate options.”