(NEW YORK) — After initially saying he was undecided on the topic, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is against gay conversion therapy. Christie faced criticism when he said earlier in the week he wasn’t sure if he would sign legislation banning the practice on minors.
“Governor Christie does not believe in conversion therapy,” spokesman Kevin Roberts said in a statement to the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “There is no mistaking his point of view on this when you look at his own prior statements where he makes clear that people’s sexual orientation is determined at birth.”
Gay conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, claims to be able to change the sexual orientation of gay people through religious counseling, intense therapy and other methods. Health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization, have all spoken out against conversion therapy, saying it can cause serious and long-term harm. The New Jersey state senate’s health committee approved legislation banning the practice on Monday.
Christie, who is widely thought to have 2016 presidential aspirations, has not said whether he will sign the bill banning the practice. He remains opposed to same sex marriage.
At a press conference Wednesday, Christie said he wasn’t sure if he would sign the bill because he needed more information, as well as wanting to give parents as much leeway in raising their children as possible.
“I’m of two minds just on this stuff in general. Number one, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children,” Christie said at the press conference. “Generally, philosophically, on bills that restrict parents’ ability to make decisions on how to care for their children, I’m generally a skeptic of those bills. Now, there can always be exceptions to those rules and this bill may be one of them.”
Democrats, as well as his challenger in his re-election bid state senator Barbara Buono, immediately pounced, calling Christie’s stance “disgusting,” adding that “gay children don’t need to be ‘cured.’”
“It’s an outrageous practice and it has no place in New Jersey,” Buono said in a statement. “That Governor Christie would dignify this shameful practice is disgusting. I urge all New Jerseyans who value equality to speak out and make clear to Governor Christie that his intolerance has no place in our state.”
California is the only state so far to outlaw gay conversion therapy, but a federal appeals court has put the implementation of the ban on hold.
The practice gained attention during the 2012 primary campaign when Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and her husband, Marcus, were accused of using reparative therapy in their family’s suburban Minneapolis treatment centers.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News
Jeanne Sahadi, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN