O’Scanlon: Not all Republicans see eye to eye on issues of homosexuality and addiction

By Declan O’Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon

Last year, the New Jersey legislature voted on a measure that prohibited the infliction of “sexual orientation reparative therapy” on young individuals of our state. This is the frequently torturous “treatment” designed to turn the gay straight. Although I abstained on the vote because of a potential technical issue, I vocally supported the initiative. Recently, the debate on this issue has re-emerged as several high-profile national and local Republicans have discussed both this issue and homosexuality. Their words demand comment.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, taking issue with policies prohibiting this “treatment,” justified his position last year by suggesting that homosexuality was simply a destructive lifestyle choice, which he went on to say was just like alcoholism. Perry managed to insult and infuriate the entire gay community along with every member of every family who has ever dealt with addiction issues – all at once. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon also vying for the Republican presidential nomination, suggested that being gay was a choice – as evidenced by supposed prison conversions. The most recent commentary came from Congressman Scott Garrett (R-5th District), who expressed a refusal to support gay candidates and said the Republican Party shouldn’t either.

These men each have a long list of substantial accomplishments and I bet I agree with them on most policy issues. But on the issues of homosexuality and addiction each of them has demonstrated a stunning level of closed-minded ignorance that – notwithstanding their apparent inability to genuinely embrace reality – most people of average intelligence would instinctively know to try to conceal.

Being a proud Republican I feel it necessary to douse these brush fires of ignorance and intolerance with some truth and reality – and let folks know that the ignorant positions espoused aren’t representative of our party as a whole. Gov. Chris Christie, who signed the ban on sexual reorientation therapy and supports treatment over incarceration for the addicted, is right on both counts. Addiction is an affliction, homosexuality is a state of being – we must battle the former and embrace the latter.

Regarding being gay, one need not be a brain surgeon – we’ll try to ignore the irony that one of the ignorant utterers actually is a brain surgeon – to understand that the dynamics of sexual orientation are genetically ingrained in each of us, just like the color of one’s skin. Expressing sentiments that are completely out of touch with reality damages our credibility even outside the communities we are directly insulting.

The premises of these beliefs are convoluted and contradictory: homosexuality and addiction are both apparently “destructive lifestyle choices” and afflictions for which someone might seek a “cure.” Why someone might seek a cure for a lifestyle choice is a mystery. I know of no gay folks who feel compelled to alter those to whom they might be attracted, at least without drive to do so other than that which our society has inflicted upon them. To suggest that homosexuality itself is something akin to addiction – and then that both homosexuality and addiction are destructive lifestyle choices – is completely outrageous. To suggest that we should reject candidates based on their sexual orientation is just as offensive.

Addiction is in fact an affliction. The problem isn’t a matter of resolve or lack of character or strength. I will concede that it is hard to understand a condition that requires the afflicted to proactively participate in their own destruction. But I have had firsthand experience with addiction. And I have spoken with parents who have watched their children fall prey to the scourge that is addiction. Try to tell them that their slowly dying children simply need to make better lifestyle choices and they’ll spit in your face – and you’ll deserve it.

In my case, I spent the first twenty years of my life watching my mother destroy herself with alcohol. She was brilliant and beautiful and uproariously funny. She didn’t choose to die. She was taken by a scourge which compels the afflicted to commit suicide as their loved ones watch helplessly. That is addiction – slow motion suicide. It is no one’s lifestyle choice.

No candidate or party is right all the time on all of the issues. But the time for debate of these two issues was over long ago. We must uniformly – across party and socioeconomic and racial and religious lines – agree on that. We won’t run out of legitimate things to debate. Of that we can all celebrate.

Declan O’Scanlon is a Republican representing Monmouth County in the New Jersey Assembly.

Posted: July 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Declan O'Scanlon, Opinion | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

8 Comments on “O’Scanlon: Not all Republicans see eye to eye on issues of homosexuality and addiction”

  1. M Laffey said at 11:03 am on July 31st, 2015:

    My good friend Declan O’Scanlon is wrong on two fronts. First all scientific evidence points to the fact that homosexuality is not genetically imprinted on us. The official position of the American Psychiatric Association is that it is most likely caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors and that in at least some people sexuality is fluid. Genetics has nothing to do with it. The second area where Declan is mistaken is where he refers to “reparative therapy as “frequently torturous” Therapy designed to help people who want eliminate same sex attraction involves nothing remotely resembling torture, is practiced by licensed psychologists and psychiatrists including a former head of the APA and a board certified psychiatrist who tests other psychiatrists for Board certification. Every story about torture associated with this therapy has been thoroughly discredited. Including the bizarre story told the legislature during hearings on this issue. If Declan would like I would be happy to introduce him to dozens of men who swear that they have been helped by this therapy. Of course it does not work for everyone but I can also introduce Declan to gay men who can tell him that even though their sexual desires have not changed they found the therapy to be not harmful but helpful to their general well being. I am aware of these facts and people because of my representation of individuals and organizations who provide these services. The reason that this therapy has been attacked is because some people in the LGBT community believe that the argument that people can change their sexual orientation has been unfairly used to deny them their civil rights and that they must therefore kill that idea regardless of whether it is true or not. I would ask Declan to do more research and hear both sides of the story before passes judgment on a service that has helped many people.

  2. @Mike Laffey said at 12:54 pm on July 31st, 2015:

    Mike, I agree with you. However, aren’t there more important matters that affect we, the taxpayers?

    O’Scanlon is not my good friend; not my friend at all. I have tried to contact his office on several occasions without any response.

    I will heed the message of the attached article: I will remember in November!


  3. MLaffey said at 2:38 pm on July 31st, 2015:

    Well even though I disagree with him about this Declan has been a personal friend for many years and a difference of philosophy will not change that.

  4. Tom Stokes said at 2:55 pm on July 31st, 2015:

    First, let me say I believe that Declan is a decent person, with whom I agree on a number of issues.

    However, I must admit I am very concerned about his public stand on homosexuality.

    As a Christian of the Roman Catholic persuasion, I believe that the act of homosexual sex is a sin, and is wrong. It is solely sexual gratification and pleasure with no possibility of procreation.

    The three Abrahamic faiths, Hebrew, Christian and Islam seem to agree on this; however some do go to extremes as to punishment.

    As a Christian, I believe it is up to God to bestow punishment, not us. As a Christian, I have been taught to love, not hate; forgive as I would like to be forgiven (the Lord’s Prayer); pray for others, including our enemies.

    Being a homosexual in itself, is not a sin; the act of homsexuality is what religious texts have admonished; Sodom and Gomorrah was one story of God’s wrath against sexual immorality (both heterosexual and homosexual). One who is a homosexual is also still a human being with a soul, and all human life is important.

    Declan talks of addiction; is not promiscuous sexuality itself also an addiction, both heterosexual and homosexual behavior? The spread of Aids was shown to have grown rapidly due to the proliferation of multiple sexual partners on a nightly basis at so-called “gay Bathhouses” in cities such as NYC and San Francisco. Should such sexual proclivities be admired and respected?

    Society has always been built upon the family; a man, a woman, and their children which will form the future of society. The disintegration of the family unit, through divorce, has truly hurt society through the impact on the children.

    There has been a cultural war going on in our society for years, attacking religion, attacking morality; castigating those who wish to follow their Faith and religion as ignorant bigots. Declan is certainly free to espouse his beliefs; as I and others who follow our Faith are free to espouse ours.

    Hopefully, one can do that without being castigated by others for “ignorance and intolerance”. For the one making that charge is actually himself guilty of “intolerance” and perhaps needs to look in the mirror.

  5. Bob English said at 7:22 pm on July 31st, 2015:

    I agree 1000% with Mr. O’Scanlon. In this day and age it’s hard to believe that anyone (much less Presidential candidates) actually believe sexual orientation is a choice. Those that hold that belief should have conversations with people who are gay. I have family members who are gay and have friends who are gay and never heard anyone ever say they “choose” to be gay. People don’t choose to be gay anymore than people choose to be straight. You are what you are.

    Regarding conversion therapy, that has been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades. Trying to make a gay person straight is just as foolish as thinking you could make a straight person gay!!!

  6. mark rosenwald said at 11:03 pm on July 31st, 2015:

    I stand with Declan on this. At one time I did not but life has a way of tempering ones views. I am here to tell you that I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your home as long as it doesn’t involve abuse, children in any way, or animals. Love whoever you like. I can’t make it any clearer than that!

  7. Many do not care said at 11:59 pm on August 1st, 2015:

    what anyone does co sensually in private: but many are also tired of some activists being so in-your-face and disrespectful of those who think differently – as is with most of the liberal persuasion, we all must respect and abide by their rights, but they have zero tolerance for anyone with other opinions- and, many activists often get hostile and downright abrasive of others’ rights to disagree. The constant splitting up of us into sub- groups with their own agendas has weakened us greatly as a country over the past 7 years, and contributed greatly to our decline.

  8. MLaffey said at 8:43 pm on August 2nd, 2015:

    I agree what people do in their own bedroom is there business. Just like if people want to attempt to change their sexual attractions they should be free to do that.