More than a decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that patients and their parents “avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation, or treatment ideas that see homosexuality as a sickness.” This week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie officially endorsed this point of view.
Christie signed a bill banning licensed therapists from trying to “convert” gay teens to heterosexuality. For that he received stinging criticism from conservative anti-gay groups. It’s possible, however — hard as it may be to imagine — that Christie’s supporters are exaggerating the political courage he showed by signing this legislation.
Christie, whose presidential ambitions extend beyond New Jersey, may well make trouble for himself among some socially conservative Republicans with his support of this bill. Yet opposition to so-called conversion therapy — much like opposition to same-sex marriage — is dwindling, and will further by 2016. At any rate, truckling to fear and prejudice is no way to win a party nomination or, for that matter, to lead a state.
As for the debate over the policy itself, Christie and the nation’s pediatricians are in good company: The American Psychological Association and 11 other groups all concur that homosexuality is not something that can or should be “cured.” Yet some social conservatives maintain that the New Jersey law, only the second in the nation after a similar law in California, infringes on parental rights.
They are correct, of course. Parents who are desperate for their children to be straight, and willing to go to extremes in an attempt to make it happen, have just had their rights circumscribed in New Jersey. But the tales of abuse and heartbreak in the dubious field of conversion therapy are sufficient impetus to legislative action.
Bloomberg News (Aug. 21)