WASHINGTON — A once high-profile opponent of same-sex couples' marriage rights took aim Monday at Gov. Chris Christie's decision to sign legislation into law that would ban therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors.
Maggie Gallagher, the former head of the National Organization for Marriage, who has kept a low profile over the past year, reappeared on the public scene Monday to attack the New Jersey governor for his bill signing.
"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," Gallagher said in a statement in her role as chairman of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund.
New Jersey's LGBT group, Garden State Equality, defended Christie and the legislation — an unusual position for the group that has been fighting Christie on his opposition to marriage equality.
"It's not about self-determination. What she's advocating for is taking away self-determination from the youth of New Jersey," Garden State Equality executive director Troy Stevenson said.
Notably, in February 2012, Gallagher denied in an appearance on Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC that she supported so-called conversion therapy efforts.
When The Nation's Richard Kim questioned Gallagher about support for conversion or "reparative" therapy, Gallagher responded angrily, saying, "You've actually just made up a bunch of facts that aren't true... I've never advocated for gay reparative therapy."
In addition to calling such therapy for minors a matter of "self-determination" Monday, however, Gallagher also took aim at an impact that the law does not appear to have.
"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," she said in her statement.
Stevenson, whose organization testified in support of the law and lobbied lawmakers for support, countered, "What adults want to do to themselves is their own prerogative. We are in the business of protecting youth."
The terms of the legislation itself are limited to prohibiting those who are "licensed to provide professional counseling" from "engag[ing] in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age."
Update at 11:55 a.m. Tuesday: Gallagher has retracted the statement, saying it was sent in error.
"A press release attributed to Maggie Gallagher was released by staff error yesterday without my knowledge or approval. These are not my words nor my sentiments. I will read the bill Chris Christie signed carefully before I issue any statement, if I do," she said in a statement Tuesday.
Update at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday: Gallagher printed a second statement at National Review on Wednesday morning, writing:
Governor Chris Christie has just put his name to a bill that uses the power of government to strip both parents and teenagers of the right to seek competent, professional help to live their life in accordance with their own values. The bill does not ban a specific kind of destructive therapy; it is a blanket ban on any licensed counseling professional helping any teenager who does not wish to act on gay (or transgender) desire. Not only efforts to change orientation but efforts to change behavior are forbidden, under penalty of law.
Governor Christie just endorsed a law that thus excludes many gay teens who wish to live in accordance with Bible-based values from the circle of care; he has outright banned chastity as a goal of counseling. His bill is not only anti-religious, anti-liberty, and anti-family, it is anti-science because it does not permit scientific knowledge to evolve in the hands of competent professionals.
The great question now unfolding in our times is: Will we permit government power to be used to strip traditional religious believers of our freedom to live as we choose?
Governor Chris Christie's answer was yes, he is willing to use government power to restrict liberty and strip religious people of equal rights to live as we choose. Courage would have been genuinely required to veto this bill, and courage was what was sadly wanting.
Chris Geidner is a Supreme Court correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Chris Geidner at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.