New Jersey’s Republican Governor, Chris Christie, has raised a stir among conservatives Friday when he stated he opposed so-called “gay conversion therapy,” a controversial method used by those who believe that sexual orientation is the result of environment or behavioral influences.
A CNN report published Friday indicated that the governor was toeing a fine line, opposing the therapy while, at the same time, refusing to commit to signing any legislation banning the practice into law. According to the report, Christie was quoted by the Newark Star-Ledger at a Mar. 20 news conference regarding his concerns such legislation.
"I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general…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." – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, speaking at a Wed., Mar. 20 news conference.
A Friday report by the New York Daily News stated that the governor is now firmly against the treatment practice and not just paying lip service. This clarification echoes the issues moderate and progressive Republicans are having with the party's powerful conservative and evangelical base regarding gay rights. Should New Jersey’s General Assembly pass and the governor sign a legislative ban, the Garden State would join California as the only two states to outlaw the practice, though enforcement the Golden State's ban is on hold following a December injunction granted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
California’s ban came following major debate, including statement after statement by medical professionals stating such treatments and therapies are actually harmful to the individual. An August 2012 article by Los Angeles Times writer Lara Embry, published shortly before that state’s ban was enacted, even states how one of the nation’s most prominent advocates for conversion therapy changed course.
“Recently, even the president of Exodus, one of the most prominent national groups advocating conversion therapy, announced that he no longer believes a person's sexual orientation can simply be changed. He also said he no longer supports so-called ‘reparative’ therapy, which is based on a belief that same-sex attraction results from emotional traumas in childhood.”
Conversion therapy is a highly controversial topic in both politics and pop culture. A recent episode of the CBS series “Criminal Minds” even broached the subject, with the antagonist being subjected to treatment at a facility which used medications and a female sexual predator masquerading as a sexual surrogate in an attempt to “convert” young homosexual males. The highly controversial episode was considered highly offensive by many conservatives, and the Christian Post published a Mar. 5 piece by therapist Christopher Doyle criticizing the episode as CBS' attempt to use the drama as a means to play politics with the subject.
"It just so happens that the episode aired at a critical time when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is in the process of ruling on the legality of SOCE therapy for minors in the state of California. At a time when activists are pushing legislation through other state legislatures in the effort to ban SOCE, CBS is guilty of putting politics above the well being of children."
In July 2011, Republican Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann, a tea party darling and one-time front-runner, stepped on the political landmine when a clinic owned by her family was reported by ABC News to be involved in such therapy, and refused comment on the matter when questioned about it. The spokesman for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, David Pickup, told CNN that the therapy, which he received, works and should be given an chance.
Governor Christie, who has been chided by the far-right for being too moderate, has stated on numerous occasions that he believes sexual orientation is determined at birth. This falls in line with many in the scientific community who believe that genetics are a determining factor in such matters. Christie's positions on homosexuality, however, has cost the sitting governor politically, and insiders have stated it may have been one of the factors causing former Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s decision to pass on him in favor of Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan.