I used to be a Chris Christie fan. The New Jersey governor’s candid, blunt responses to almost any question that came his way always seemed to create an aura of conviction – a certain sincerity rarely seen in today’s politicians.
This quality undoubtedly helped make him the rising national political star he’s become, with many speculating that he’s destined for the White House.
So I was appalled when Christie last week signed into law a bill banning so-called gay conversion therapy in New Jersey.
Bill no. 3371 prohibits the counseling of any individual under 18 years of age by any counselor, whether a licensed mental health professional or clergy member, that would attempt to change the patient’s sexual orientation. The bill defines this counseling as “the practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.”
Yet it explicitly exempts therapy for “a person seeking to transition from one gender to another, or counseling that provides acceptance [or] support” for homosexuality.
Thus, anyone under 18 struggling with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction [SSA) is precluded from receiving the help he or she may want even with parental consent. At the same time, parents are allowed to use their discretion to seek professional help to affirm their child’s SSA!
New Jersey is the second state in the nation, following California, to enact such legislation. (California’s law is currently on hold pending a ruling on its constitutionality by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.)
This bill is objectionable for several reasons. It is an assault on religious freedom as well as on the right of parents to utilize their discretion in raising their children. It also unfairly denies young people (religious or not) the opportunity to pursue help they may desperately want in order to live life as they see fit.
In signing the bill into law, Christie cited findings by the American Psychological Association that conversion therapy “can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts,” and concluded that “exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”
For a governor who as recently as a year ago vetoed a same sex marriage bill in his state, this latest stance is ironic and highly disappointing.
The governor acknowledged in a recent interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan that engaging in homosexual activity is a sin according to various religious doctrines (though he noted that he himself does not hold that belief). Yet the analysis that led him to sign this bill into law – namely, his conclusion that there is no “clear evidence of benefits” to conversion therapy to outweigh the alleged risks – completely disregards the rights of those who believe in a Higher Power and indeed regard homosexual behavior as a sin.
And his failure to acknowledge that there are those who believe living a life free of that particular sin – and fulfilling God’s intended purpose for human beings – is a benefit sufficient to outweigh the risks enumerated by the American Psychological Association is truly a slap in the face to anyone who subscribes to these religious beliefs.
Whether the pursuit of one’s religious convictions is worth the potential risks as assessed by the American Psychological Association is not the role of the legislature or the governor – it’s the role of the individual and his or her parents.
What about a 17 year old who just happens to enjoy the culture he has been brought up in and would like to be have a traditional family? Or the 14 year old who would like to learn how to adjust his mannerisms so as to not be bullied in school? The level of government intrusion this bill represents is seemingly unprecedented (besides for California) in its attempt to control what goals are promoted in a private counseling session. Would the governor sign legislation restricting elective cosmetic surgery on minors? Surely there are risks inherent in those procedures. Or perhaps even legislation restricting a minor from becoming transgender?
Considering that there are organizations in our own community that have been able to provide conversion therapy, with some degree of success, to those seeking it, the passage of this bill is especially saddening. We should collectively voice our concerns to our representatives in government, as New York legislators have already begun discussions to introduce a similar bill.
Time is hardly on our side. Our country’s progression in passing legislation sympathetic to the same-sex agenda has been moving at an ever-quickening pace.
Just seventeen years ago we had a Democrat as president who signed legislation defining marriage as a union exclusively involving one man and one woman, and not one state had as yet legalized gay marriage.
Seventeen years later, we have undone the federal definition of marriage, thirteen states have embraced same-sex marriage, and a Republican presidential hopeful has banned conversion therapy for young adults looking to follow their religious convictions and seek professional help in resisting temptation.
Kudos to Agudath Israel for being the only policy organization to issue a press release condemning the new law.
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