Does Corbett, like Christie, have guts to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’?
At Gov. Corbett’s victory party on Election Night, 2010, after beating Democratic rival Dan Onorato by a whopping nine points, he told enthusiastic supporters exactly what to expect of his time in office: “Look across the river,” he said.
Across the Delaware River, that is.
Corbett was promising his supporters one thing: He was going to be like then-GOP up-and-comer Chris Christie, who, since elected governor of blue New Jersey in 2009, had made national waves with his fight against new taxes, the state’s teachers’ union, and federally-funded construction projects.
Almost three years later, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.
Christie is still the popular conservative governor of liberal New Jersey, and much of that popularity came from his willingness to work with the federal government and President Obama after Hurricane Sandy devastated the state’s shoreline.
He’s also shown himself to be a bit more moderate on labor affairs than originally thought, somewhat softening his stance against the American Federation of Teachers. Additionally, Christie has picked fights over the role of government with libertarian Republican Rand Paul, and just last week signed a bill banning gay conversion therapy in that state.
Back on November 3, 2010, Corbett was, of course, talking about his Christie-esque hope that he could close the state’s budget gap — estimated, at the time, at around $5 billion — without raising taxes. In that role, he’s remained somewhat successful, even if 80 percent of the state’s citizens think he doesn’t deserve re-election because of it.
But if Corbett really wanted to emulate Jersey’s boss man, maybe he should also look at the things Christie’s done on a social level that make him the least hated governor in the U.S., instead of the most.
About that ban on ‘gay conversion therapy.’
Gay conversion therapy — or, reparative therapy, as it’s sometimes called — is a controversial treatment which seeks to turn gay teenagers straight. New Jersey just became the second state to ban the treatment, after California.
The Assemblyman who sponsored the bill Christie signed called such therapy “an insidious form of child abuse.” Especially since it seeks to treat sexual orientation as a mental disorder even though the American Psychological Association stopped classifying it as such in 1973.
According to an Associated Press article regarding what’s conducted in such treatments, it’s hard to imagine there’s any actual therapy going on.
The idea of conversion therapy is an old one that has increasingly drawn criticism for its methods. Last year, four gay men sued a Jersey City group for fraud, saying its program included making them strip naked and attack effigies of their mothers with baseball bats.
Lawmakers heard horror stories from some during hearings on the ban, including Brielle Goldani of Toms River, who testified she underwent electric shocks and was given drugs to induce vomiting after being sent to an Ohio camp at age 14 to become straight.
Christie noted in signing the bill that being gay is not a choice, nor is it a sin. This line of thinking, incredibly, differs from the classic Republican politician’s line of thinking.
Corbett has remained largely silent in the face of LGBT progress in his home state. He hasn’t commented on House Bill 300 or Senate Bill 300 (which would end government-approved discrimination against the LGBT community) and his statements on gay marriage (he’s against it) mostly come from his 2010 campaign.
But if Corbett wants to follow his counterpart across the river, here’s a chance to do as Christie has, and at least look moderate. State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Gerald Mullery (Luzerne) announced late last month they plan on introducing a bill which would ban gay therapy for patients under 18 years, just like New Jersey’s bill. As they write in their co-sponsorship memo:
Scholars are skeptical of the practice of conversion and reparative therapy as they believe it is a social phenomenon that ultimately harms the individual. Moreover, studies have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that sexual orientation change efforts are effective for changing sexual orientation, and that such efforts could result in damaging long-term effects for minors. Therefore, like any other harmful act that is prohibited by Pennsylvania law, we must protect Pennsylvania’s youth from sexual orientation change efforts.
“We know it’s bad science,” Sims said of reparative therapy when we spoke to him about it in December, just after fellow state Rep. Mike Fleck had come out of the closet. “Homosexuality is not a medical disorder. It’s not a psychological disorder. We’ve been told that for years and years that there are people who say they are curing a person’s homosexuality through treatment. They’re really brainwashing people and causing immense psychological and mental damage.”
Fleck, of course, is a Republican and had admitted he “sought out treatment from a Christian counselor, but when that didn’t work out” he hit up a secular counselor, who told him he was gay.
The memo comes as ex-gay conversion leader Alan Chambers shut down his former ministry, Exodus International, a leader in the ex-gay movement. He apologized for his ministry’s missteps—which included championing gay-to-straight therapy and cheerleading Ughanda’s “Kill the Gays” bill earlier this decade.
The local arm of the American Family Association has rallied for reparative therapy, as well. In an interview with Philadelphia Weekly earlier this summer, AFA of PA’s head Diane Gramley noted sexual orientation is “something that can be changed. Homosexuality is not immutable. And I know a number of ex-gays.”
As Think Progress recently noted, some groups promoting therapy in the U.S. have claimed they’d like to succeed in ending homosexuality outright — something Christie, considered a mainstream Republican and 2016 contender, rejects. As do the vast majority of Americans.
Sure. Christie still sucks on that state’s marijuana laws. And he vetoed a gay marriage bill that was sent to his desk earlier this year (he does, after all, need to win over a majority of Republicans come 2016, when he will likely run for president), but at least he’s displaying a little bit of vivid thought on social issues. And maybe Corbett should cup his palm over his brow and take another peek over the river. Because this is sort of a no-brainer.
There are worse decisions you could make than following Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso