A spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) clarified Thursday that Christie opposes gay conversion therapy, a day after the governor declined to take a position on a bill that would ban the practice in his state, The Star-Ledger reports.
“Gov. Christie does not believe in conversion therapy,” spokesman Kevin Roberts said Thursday afternoon. “There is no mistaking his point of view on this when you look at his own prior statements where he makes clear that people’s sexual orientation is determined at birth.”
Christie’s clarification comes after Democrats and his gubernatorial foe, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), used his originally noncommittal stance to slam him and fundraise.
Conversion therapy is a controversial practice that seeks to change the sexual orientation of gay people. On Monday, the N.J. Senate Health Committee advanced a bill that would outlaw the practice. When asked at a town hall meeting Wednesday whether he would sign it, Christie didn’t stake out a position one way or the other, saying he was unfamiliar with the issue and didn’t want to comment on the bill too much before it reached his desk.
“I hadn’t heard of conversion therapy before the bill got into effect. So, I know basically what I’ve read in the papers, so I don’t want to give too much of a comment on it,” Christie said.
However, he did explain some of his philosophy when it came to bills that dealt with how parents raised their children.
“Number one, I think there should be lots 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,” Christie said.
“Now, there can always be exceptions to those rules,” he said, “and this bill may be one of them.”
Christie’s words presented an opportunity that Democrats used to jab the popular Republican. Buono, a progressive Democrat, slammed him, calling his remarks “disgusting,” and urged “all New Jerseyans who value equality to speak out and make clear to Governor Christie that his intolerance has no place in our state.”
“Gay children don't need to be 'cured,' they need to be loved and accepted for who they are, just like ALL [sic] of our children,” Buono said in a statement on her website.
The Democratic Governors Association also got in on the act, labeling Christie a “right-wing reactionary” in an email to supporters.
Christie isn’t the only Republican who has waded into controversy over gay rights recently. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) publicly endorsed gay marriage last week after learning two years ago his son Will was gay. Other prominent Republicans have also signed a legal brief arguing that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
This isn’t the first time that Christie has faced some controversy on a gay rights issue. He vetoed a bill in February 2012 that would have legalized same-sex marriage. That veto can be overridden if two-thirds of the state’s legislature votes to do so, but such a scenario is unlikely.