"It’s such a relief," said Jacob Rudolph, a Parsippany teen whose video of his coming out as LGBT at his high school awards ceremony went viral earlier this year. Rudolph also composed a petition calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy that garnered 143,000 signatures. He said the passage of the ban is a big win for LGBT youth, and described his feeling on the decision as "ecstatic."
"Before [Christie] signed this bill, our government condoned this process by allowing it to remain legal," he said. "We’ve gotten to a point in our society where [conversion therapy] is antiquated, and government officials are realizing the fallacies of this process and the harm it can cause."
Conversion therapy is a controversial practice which seeks to "convert" people under the age of 18 from homosexuality to heterosexuality.
Rudolph added that Christie, a rising star in the Republican Party, putting his weight behind this issue is significant, and bodes well for other states banning the practice as well.
"The fact that Governor Christie signed this bill is a big deal," he said. "Republicans across the country look at him as a role model. By signing this, he showed it wasn’t an equality issue, but an issue of protecting the youth from unlicensed professionals. It’s a good omen for other states."
In his official signing statement, Christie said though he initially expressed concern about the government limiting parental choice — saying the government should "tread carefully into this area" — the potential health risks for children who undergo such therapy outweigh other factors.
Christie’s statement continued: "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. I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate."
Though Christie has gone on record saying he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality is not a sin, in the past he has vetoed the state’s proposed gay marriage legislation and has said he would do so again if the bill reached his desk. This left some gay rights advocates doubting that a ban on conversion therapy would be signed.
Rudolph is attending the University of Miami this fall to study music business, and hopes he can "bring what he can" to Florida as he has for New Jersey. For now, he’s enjoying the win.
"It’s very exciting this is happening," he said.
Steve Adubato wrote about the practice in his July column in New Jersey Monthly, urging Trenton to take fast action on the bill.Click here to leave a comment