New Jersey’s new law banning ex-gay therapy for minors has riled conservatives, who were quick to defend the merits of the harmful shame-based treatment. Many were notably critical of Gov. Chris Christie (R) for signing the legislation into law, accusing him of interfering with parents’ rights.
The Liberty Counsel’s rhetoric was particularly vitriolic. Promising to challenge the law in court as it has done in California, Mat Staver reiterated his group’s claim that ex-gay therapy is important for the victims of sexual abuse:
STAVER: The New Jersey governor is putting himself in every counseling room, dictating what kind of counseling clients can receive. This bill provides a slippery slope of government infringing upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs.
This bill is so broad that parents would be prohibited from seeking help for their son who developed unwanted same-sex attractions after being molested by the likes of Jerry Sandusky. Counselors would only be allowed to affirm these unwanted feelings as good and normal. This is absurd and dangerous. This law would inflict serious damage to children, parents, and counselors.
There is no evidence that connects sexual abuse to same-sex orientations, but this rhetoric is regularly used to take advantage of LGBT youth who have already been traumatized. Some research also suggests that LGBT youth are more likely to be victims of abuse, so if there is a connection, it could actually go in the opposite direction: people aren’t gay because they were abused; they were abused because they were perceived as gender non-conforming.
Maggie Gallagher recommitted to her defense of ex-gay therapy as well (despite her bizarre claim that she doesn’t know what it is). In her capacity as chairman of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which is defending the Jewish ex-gay group JONAH from a lawsuit in New Jersey, she said that the law oppresses those who wish to reject their gay identities:
GALLAGHER: The new law communicates to gays and lesbians seeking to conform their lives to their values that they are second-glass [sic] citizens, without the same right to seek help that other people enjoy. It is a right of self-determination that Gov. Christie has shut down.
Governor Christie’s decision today violates the individual drive of men and women who no longer want to be tormented by unwanted homosexual desires. They are adults and should be free to seek out help for themselves with government interference.
[Update: Gallagher has since disassociated herself from this statement. See below.]
That torment, of course, is the direct result of cultural forces that reject homosexuality — including Gallagher herself.
JONAH also responded to the law’s passage, but focused only on one person’s “false testimony,” during the hearings. Though one person did unfortunately provide a fictional account of ex-gay therapy, that does not discount the hundreds of ex-gay survivors who have overwhelmingly described the treatment as harmful. Indeed, the lawsuit against JONAH details some disgustingly abusive practices that the group’s clients endured that cannot be so easily dismissed.
It’s unfortunate that these groups continue to peddle lies about homosexuality, but laws like New Jersey’s are explicitly designed to protect young people from parents who might be convinced by these harmful ideas.
Equality Matters has profiled what some other conservatives in media have had to say, including Sean Hannity, Bryan Fischer, and Matt Barber.