N.J. Gov. Chris Christie Opposes ’Gay Conversion Therapy’
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Thursday that he doesn't believe in "gay conversion therapy." His announcement came just a day after he was sharply criticized for saying he was undecided on the ban of the controversial therapy for minors in the state.
The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reports that although Christie said he doesn't support conversion therapy, he still did not take a stance on the bill that would make it illegal for minors to undergo the therapy. On Wednesday, Christie said he did not know enough about the issue to comment, which lead Democratic challenger Barbara Buono to criticize the governor, who called his indecision was "disgusting."
"Governor Christie does not believe in conversion therapy," spokesman Kevin Roberts said in a statement. "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."
Roberts would not say, however, if Christie would sign a bill currently in Legislature that would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy, which some people believe can "cure" homosexuality.
The bill cleared a New Jersey Senate panel on Monday. It would ban licensed counselors in the state from using conversion therapy. Those who support the measure say the practice can have damage patients in the long-term.
"I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general," Christie said on Wednesday when he was asked about the bill. "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 governor added that he usually does not comment on bills before they reach his desk.
Once the media picked up on Christi's comments, Buono, a state senator from Middlesex, N.J., called him out.
"I couldn't believe the stunning level of ignorance that that statement showed," she said. "Gay children don't need to be cured," she said, and added that the therapy is "nothing short of child abuse" and "a cruel and damaging practice of trying to shame children into being someone they're not."
Christie has been vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage. In 2011, he told CNN's Piers Morgan, "I've always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual. And so I think if someone is born that way it's very difficult to say then that's a sin."
Christie vetoed the marriage equality bill after it was passed by both houses of the state's legislature. At the time, he said voters should decide on the measure. Garden State Equality, the state's leading gay-rigths organization, sharply criticized the governor for putting a rights issue to voters. Since then, however, marriage equality has had a three-for-three among voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State.
As the Star-Ledger points out, the governor, who some believe will be a leading contender for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016, finds himself in a tough spot. Although New Jersey is a blue state, Christie risks alienating his GOP base for siding with Democrats on a social issue. On the other hand, his marriage stance appears to be on the wrong side of the issue for most New Jersey voters.
Straddling the twin demands of his party and his constituency is nothing for the governor, who was severely criticized by some members of his party for what they saw as cozying up to President Barak Obama after Hurricane Sandy. Christie, in typical no-holds-barred style, excoriated his critics. His first duty, he thundered, was to people who lost their homes and livelihoods, not to party apparatchiks and pundits.
Earlier this month Jacob Rudolph, the 18-year-old activist whose coming out video went viral in January, launched a campaign to ban the therapy. The teen created an online petition and urged Christie to oppose the measure.
"Unfortunately, Gov. Chris Christie has not yet said he will support this crucial legislation," Rudolph wrote on the petition. "Gov. Christie must be made to understand how critical such legislation is to protecting the thousands of teens like me from the dangers of gay conversion therapy."
In October of last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a legislation that made the state the first in the country to ban conversion therapy, the Associated Press reported. The law has never taken effect, however, because a federal appeals court issued an emergency order putting the law on hold until it could hear full arguments on the controversial law.