A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that he "does not believe in conversion therapy" for homosexuals, but did not say whether the New Jersey governor plans to support a ban on the practice that's under consideration by state lawmakers.
"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," Maria Comella, his spokeswoman, said.
Her comments come a day after Christie sparked headlines for saying he hadn't made up his mind on whether to sign the ban into law. And his Democratic challenger in this November's election wasted no time Thursday in attacking Christie for his lack of a stance on the issue.
"I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general," Christie was quoted by the Star-Ledger as saying at a press conference Wednesday. "Number one, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children. I don't -- this is a general philosophy, not to his bill -- 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."
The paper reported Christie saying he never reads bills before they hit his desk for approval.
The bill -- which was approved by a state Senate committee on Monday -- would make it illegal for a professional counselor to "engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18." Therapy methods vary, but are often times associated with fundamentalist Christian groups who oppose homosexuality. Shock therapy is used in some instances.
Major medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, oppose therapies that aim to treat homosexuality as a mental disorder.
Christie's rival in the election, state Sen. Barbara Buono, called Christie's hesitance at taking a position on the measure "disgusting."
"His intolerance has no place in our state," Buono said on a conference call, adding later: "The governor said he doesn't know much about gay conversion therapy. But I don't know how much more you need to know."
His remarks are simply a pattern of cowing to national Republicans, Buono alleged.
"I would have to assume that's guiding his judgment in this case. He's certainly being consistent anyway," she said.
Polls show Christie leading Buono by large margins, months ahead of November's vote.
Last February, Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed, saying the issue should be decided by voters rather than lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Christie reaffirmed his personal opposition to same-sex marriage, according to the Star-Ledger. He was asked whether Sen. Rob Portman's recent endorsement of same-sex marriage would force him to rethink his position.
"As far as how it affects my view, no," Christie said. "Because that question implies that somehow this is a political judgment and for me it's not."