Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) signed a bill into law this week that bans quacks from practicing a discredited form of therapy on minors that seeks to turn them from gay to straight. New Jersey is now the second state in the nation, the first being California, to pass such a law. Massachusetts may become the third, with the legislature’s Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons, with Disabilities having held a hearing on the issue in July.
To no one’s surprise, the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher lashed out at Gov. Christie today: “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.”
The intractable problem facing ideologues like Gallagher, is that no credible evidence has yet to surface proving that the clients of these charlatans have self-determined their sexual orientation. Despite the high stakes represented by these bills, the “ex-gay” industry has still been consistently unable to show success stories.
Our opponents in Trenton were so feckless that they had to fly in an “ex-gay” spokesperson all the way from California. Was there not a single human being who “self-determined” their sexual orientation available to testify in the populous and relatively nearby cities of New York, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Providence?
Compounding this failure was the nation’s first “Ex-Gay Pride,” an event that inspired so much confidence that American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios predicted that “thousands of ex-gays” would be “descending” on Washington D.C. on July 31. Instead, the laughable event in our nation’s capital drew ten pathetic dregs to a press conference with virtually no press. The speakers were therapists who financially profited by claiming they had sexually converted. Far from showing self-determination, this motley crew revealed themselves to be self-interested businessmen who hoped to exploit the media in an effort to attract new paying clients.
Of course, this issue was probably lost back in May when New Jersey Family First’s mercurial “ex-gay” activist, Greg Quinlan, tried to foolishly reframe this bill as the “Jerry Sandusky Victimization Act,” even though it had no connection to sexually abused children. This crass publicity stunt cemented the impression that our foes were not the kind of people who should be counseling vulnerable youth.
This strategy seemed even more peculiar considering that Quinlan’s partner in crime, “ex-gay” activist Christopher Doyle, had a troubling history in this arena. “I tried to have sex with the little girls that my mother watched in her daycare, and eventually, one of the girls told her parents what I was doing,” Doyle once wrote on an anti-gay website. “The shame that was placed on me by my parents was more than I could bear. Rather than rescue me, teach me, and put me in counseling, the ‘bad boy’ was left alone to deal with all of this shame.”
This amateur hour incompetence was a precursor to a hearing on the issue, where Quinlan became unhinged and lectured a key lawmaker by proclaiming: “We are raping parents of their children, not giving them the right to guide their child.”
Sure, New Jersey was a nightmare for the “ex-gay” industry, but they may have hit rock bottom in Boston. Unable to find examples of converted homosexuals in Massachusetts, they trotted out a New York exorcist, Joanne Highley. According to the exorcist: “We definitely cleanse and bind demonic powers out of females’ uterus cavities, out of genitals, of course, out of anal canals, out of intestines, out of throats and mouths if there has been an ungodly deposit of semen in those areas. We cleanse with the blood of Jesus and cast out the demonic powers…”
The radical organization, Mass Resistance, attacked me on its blog for pointing out the exorcist’s proclivity for spiritual warfare. “This is outrageously misleading. Besen was referring to Joanne Highly of Life Ministry who had testified earlier….The so-called “exorcism video” is 48 seconds taken from a 1993 PBS documentary, and appears to be taken completely out of context.”
Is there really a context where her wacky words could be construed as normal?
What occurred in California and New Jersey are shots of momentum for LGBT advocates working to pass similar bills across the nation. Protecting LGBT youth from quacks is now a bipartisan issue, which doesn’t bode well for the “ex-gay” industry.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”