POLITICS
03/22/2013 10:46 am ET Updated Mar 22, 2013

Chris Christie Says He Does Not Believe In Gay Conversion Therapy

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has come out against the practice known as gay conversion therapy, after facing intense criticism for saying he didn't know whether or not he would sign legislation banning the technique on minors.

"Governor Christie does not believe in conversion therapy," spokesman Kevin Roberts said in a statement on Thursday, according to the Newark 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."

Reparative therapy claims that gay people can change their sexual orientation through religious counseling and other methods. The therapy stems from the once accepted -- but now discredited -- belief that homosexuality is a mental disorder that could be cured.

Major health organizations have rejected conversion therapy, with many concluding that it can cause significant physical and psychological harm.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Christie told reporters that he wasn't sure where he stood on banning the practice because he didn't have much information on the issue and didn't want to infringe on parental rights. The New Jersey Senate's health committee on Monday approved legislation banning the practice, passing with only Democratic support.

"I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general," Christie said, as reported by the Star-Ledger. "Number one, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children. ... 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 quickly criticized Christie for his ambivalence on the issue. New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono (D), who is challenging Christie in the gubernatorial race, said, "It's an outrageous practice and it has no place in New Jersey. That Governor Christie would dignify this shameful practice is disgusting."

Roberts did not say whether Christie has decided if he will sign the ban if it reaches his desk.

California is the only state that has outlawed conversion therapy, although a federal appeals court has put the ban's implementation on hold.

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