Governor Chris Christie

Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey has become the second US state after California to ban gay conversion therapy for minors as a harmful practice.

On Monday, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that bars professional counsellors from attempting to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender expression.

The bill passed both houses of the legislature with bipartisan majorities in June.

Christie explained in a statement that while he was reluctant to interfere in parents’ right to decide what was best for their children, in this case the view of the experts should be the determining factor.

“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,” said the governor.

“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,” he added.

“LGBT youth in New Jersey will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being,” commented Human Rights Campaign Foundation Vice President Jeff Krehely.

In October last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a similar bill into law. The law is being challenged in the courts.

Major medical and mental health organisations around the world have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and harmful.

The South African Society of Psychiatrists says that it “opposes any psychiatric treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual”.

It has also warned that this kind of therapy “runs the risk of harming patients by causing depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviour”.

Despite this, it is not illegal to offer members of the public, including minors, “gay cure” or reparative therapy services in South Africa.

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