Citing medical and psychiatric research that sexual orientation is determined at birth, the law bans state-licensed counselors, therapists and social workers from practicing a method of talk therapy that opponents have said is deeply damaging to the self-esteem and identity of gay youths.

Christie said he was signing the legislation based on research that found "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."

But he said he still had "concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children."