Governor Chris Christie has signed a bill that bars licensed therapists from trying to make gay minors straight.

Governor Chris Christie speaks in Mount Laurel. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

The new law makes New Jersey only the second state to ban the practice on minors.

In his signing statement, Christie says, "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.  I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind."

He continued that, "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."

Gay rights groups say the practice of conversion therapy is damaging to young people because it tells them that it's not acceptable to be whoever they are.

Some social conservatives framed the debate as a parental rights issue, saying a ban on the counseling would limit the ability of parents to do what they think is best for their children.

The idea of conversion therapy is an old one that has increasingly drawn criticism for its methods. Last year, four gay men sued a Jersey City group for fraud, saying its program included making them strip naked and attack effigies of their mothers with baseball bats.

Lawmakers heard horror stories from some during hearings on the ban, including Brielle Goldani of Toms River, who testified she underwent electric shocks and was given drugs to induce vomiting after being sent to an Ohio camp at age 14 to become straight.

But, they also heard from Tara King, a Brick-based counselor, who said she should be allowed to "fix" what patients, even under-aged clients, want fixed.


The Associated Press contributed to this report