New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said this week that he isn't sure if he would sign a bill to ban the practice of using therapies to turn a gay child into a straight child.
His expected challenger for reelection, State Sen. Barbara Buono, a co-sponsor of the bill banning gay conversion therapy of minors, calls that "disgusting."
The Buono team clearly senses an opening to cast the popular Republican governor as a right-wing fanatic, something he is rarely if ever called.
He was asked yesterday about the bill, which passed out of a legislative committee Monday and has yet to be approved by the full state legislature.
Christie said that he generally doesn't decide on bills before they reach his desk and he had only recently heard of the practice of gay conversion.
He also said: "You know, I’m of two minds on this stuff in general. One, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children."
"This is general now not to this bill, but generally philosophically on bills that restrict parents' ability to make decisions on how to care for their children."
"I’m generally a skeptic on those things. Now, of course, there can always be exceptions to those rules and this bill may be one of them."
Buono responded: "I was shocked at the stunning level of ignorance that statement showed." She accused Christie of playing to the right.
"All of this governor's decisions are geared to what plays in the national Republican party," Buono said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
The bill, which passed out of committee with all Democrats voting in favor and all but one Republican voting no or abstaining, is short and straightforward.
It would forbid licensed therapists and counselors from trying to change the sexual orientation of a minor. Simple, and yet anything but for Christie.
Senators heard dramatic testimony about such conversion therapy, with a transgender woman from Toms River telling of being forced to go to a conversion camp.
There, she said she was shocked with electricity and given vomit-inducing medicine while being shown "unacceptable" images during her "conversion."
Others who experienced gay conversion told of being forced to masturbate while looking at images of naked women and being shown pics of AIDS victims.
Opponents said that banning conversion therapy - also known as reparative therapy - would violate both parents' rights and the First Amendment.
"I don't understand why you people are coming into our homes and trying to tell us what to do with our minor children," said Carol Gallentine of Living Free Ministries.
"Under 18, it's the parents' right, it's our civil right, to raise our children the best we can."
Christie opposes gay marriage but doesn't believe homosexuality is a sin. He favors civil unions and a ballot referendum so voters can decide on gay marriage.
A Christie spokesman later said he "does not believe in conversion therapy."
He also cited his comments that sexual orientation is determined at birth. He won't say whether he will sign the gay conversion ban until he sees the final bill.
Christie, a name frequently mentioned as a 2016 election candidate for president, is seeking a second term as Governor of New Jersey this fall.