Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a law on Monday barring licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight, the latest example of the potential 2016 presidential candidate steering a moderate course.
The governor said the health risks of trying to change a child's sexual orientation, as identified by the American Psychological Association, trump concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice. "Government should tread carefully into this area," he said in the signing note, "and I do so here reluctantly."
The decision marked the third time this month that Christie has staked out a moderate position on a hot-button social issue as he seeks a second term in a Democratic-leaning state. It also offers more evidence that the popular governor is positioning himself as a pragmatist who shuns more conservative elements within his party.
Christie said on "issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards," citing a litany of potential ill effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression, drug abuse and suicide.
"I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate," he said.