Protecting Gay Youth from Dangerous “Therapy” and Marriage Rights for All
On Monday, June 24th I visited our Trenton Statehouse. I attended with a group called Garden State Equality, and our purpose that day was to speak with legislators about two specific bills, one of which would make it illegal for licensed therapists to do what is called “Gay Reparative or Conversion Therapy” on minors (adults who so choose will continue to be free to elect this kind of therapy, and non-licensed counselors like clergy, for example, would not be affected by this law.) While I was not representing the congregation in any formal way, I want you to know of my participation and pride in participating in this lobbying effort.
My support of this bill and opposition to gay conversion therapy do not arise only from my personal beliefs (that this therapy is premised on the incorrect belief that homosexuality is a choice or disease or disorder that must and can be corrected). If that were the only reason to oppose such therapy, I could not support a law making it illegal. While I am very troubled that anyone would be subjected to it, I could not support a law outlawing it, because of my belief in the centrality of free speech and freedom of conscience. My decision to actively lobby for this bill stems from clear evidence that conversion therapy is dangerous and destructive.
Just as consumers deserve protection from fraudulent and unscientific “miracle” cures, say, for cancer, so should our children and grandchildren find protection from counseling that attempts to change a fundamental part of their being—their sexuality. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, thoughts of suicide.” The SPLC also states, “Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. It is the longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences that homosexuality is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.”
In addition, the organization that once championed this therapy, Exodus International, and its President, Alan Chambers, have not only closed their doors, but openly declared that this therapy is wrong and dangerous. Mr. Chambers issued a detailed apology for the harm his organization has done to gay youth by advocating and practicing gay conversion therapy.
On that Monday, I proudly watched as our State Assembly overwhelmingly passed this bill. My happiness was tempered when both my legislators, Robert Clifton and Ronald Dancer, voted no. Later in the week, the State Senate also passed the bill, and yesterday Governor Chris Christie signed it into law.
But our work continues. I ask that you join with me in writing the Governor to thank him for signing the bill. While you are writing Governor Christie, please ask him to reconsider his veto of a bill that would extend marriage right to same-sex couples in New Jersey. Our Legislature has passed such a bill, a majority of New Jersey citizens support it, thirteen other states have legalized it, and the Supreme Court has overturned a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act. Moreover, our Reform Movement supports marriage equality out of a commitment to Jewish values. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism declares: “Judaism teaches that all human beings are created b’tselem elohim – in the Divine image. Genesis 1:27 tells us that ‘God created humans in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created them: male and female, God created them.’ The belief that the stamp of the divine is present in all humans is fundamental to Reform Judaism; we cannot tolerate discrimination against any person for any reason.” In reflection of this belief, our Movement is committed to ensuring the civil marriage rights of gay and lesbian couples. Let’s turn our beliefs and values into action
Write to Governor Christie through his website or write directly to his office:
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Learn more about Reform Judaism’s stand and activities on marriage equality and take action now!
Learn more about New Jersey’s Garden State Equality, the state’s largest civil rights organization of any kind – not just the state’s largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
Rabbi Stephen D. Gold serves at Beth Am Shalom in Lakewood, New Jersey.