Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
Update: Christi issued a statement after he signed the bill that sought to present his views on reparative therapy and homosexuality as in opposition to Catholic teaching. But the statement released by the governor's office wrongly suggested that the Church viewed same-sex attraction as a sin. In fact the Church has called on the faithful to respect all persons, irregardless of sexual orientation, and it distinguishes between sexual orientation and sexual acts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357-2359, outlines this teaching in detail
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed legislation banning the practice of providing “gay conversion therapy,” also known as “reparative therapy” for teenagers seeking help with un-wanted same-sex attraction, the Washington Post reported today.
Earlier, Christie's aides had told reporters that when he signed the legislation he would repeat his earlier statements expressing concern about such legislation:
“I still have those concerns,” he plans to say Monday. “Government should tread carefully into this area, and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind.”
The Post reported that
Christie will note, the American Psychological Association has said that gay conversion therapy — also known as reparative therapy — can lead to mental health issues and substance abuse.”
“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,” Christie will say. “Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.”
Christie had previously issued a caveat about legislation that trumped parental authority for approving decisions related to the care of children:
"I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general," Christie was quoted by the Star-Ledger as saying at a press conference Wednesday. "Number one, I think there should be lotts 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 problems posed by reparative therapy have prompted intense debate in New Jersey, particularly after the Southern Poverty Law Center sued a Jewish group, JONAH, for promising to help individuals change their same-sex attraction. The lawsuit alleged that JONAH had violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act by failing to make good on such promises, and also for suggesting that persons' same-sex orientation required fixing.
New Jersey is the second state to ban “reparative therapy” for teens with unwanted same-sex attraction. California did so last year, but a three-judge panel subsequently blocked implemetation of the law, reflecting constitutional concerns about the government suppressing speech and intruding in the relationship between therapists and patients.
News coverage of the JONAH lawsuit and the proposed ban reparative therapy has cited policy positions adopted by professional organization that oppose the practice, including the American Psychological Association. But NIcholas Cummings, a former president of the American Psychological Assocation published a recent column in USA Today raising further questions about whether bans on the practice are justified. Cummings noted that he had successfully treated highly motivated patients with unwanted same-sex attraction, and the effort to bar all such therapy was, at least in part, politically motivated. Stated Cummings:
Gays and lesbians have the right to be affirmed in their homosexuality. That's why, as a member of the APA Council of Representatives in 1975, I sponsored the resolution by which the APA stated that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and, in 1976, theresolution, which passed the council unanimously, that gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against in the workplace.
But contending that all same-sex attraction is immutable is a distortion of reality. Attempting to characterize all sexual reorientation therapy as "unethical" violates patient choice and gives an outside party a veto over patients' goals for their own treatment. A political agenda shouldn't prevent gays and lesbians who desire to change from making their own decisions.
Whatever the situation at an individual clinic, accusing professionals from across the country who provide treatment for fully informed persons seeking to change their sexual orientation of perpetrating a fraud serves only to stigmatize the professional and shame the patient.
Critics who challenge state laws prohibiting therapy for unwsanted same-sex attraction have argued that it unlawfully suppresses free speech, and also attacks religious freedom.. Reportedly, patients who seek treatment often want to square sexual behavior with religious beliefs. Father Paul Check, the director of Courage the Cathiolic apostolate for persons with same-sex attraction addressed s ome of these issues in a wide-ranging interview with the Register.
Governor Christie, a self-identified Catholic, has previously expressed his belief that same-sex attraction is immutable. But he refused to sign legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, arguing that the voters should be allowed to approve any change to the state's marriage laws.