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Gay Republicans may surrender on ‘gay cure therapy’ in fear of tougher platform

Friday, June 6, 2014
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Daniel Gonzalez via Flickr.com

Daniel Gonzalez via Flickr.com

FORT WORTH, Texas — Gay Republicans in Texas said Friday they may stop fighting their party’s proposed endorsement of “reparative therapy” over worries that even tougher anti-gay language could be added to the party platform.

The Texas Republican Party is poised to adopt a new platform this weekend that would support psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight. Such therapies were banned for minors last year by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, and California has a similar law.

A look at debate over ‘reparative therapy’ for gays and lesbians

Associated Press

The Texas Republican Party is considering endorsing psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay people straight. Adding such language to its new platform would contrast with efforts in some other states to limit such counseling. Here are some questions and answers about the issue:

Q: What sort of practice is involved?

A: The controversy concerns a range of practices known by various terms, including gay conversion therapy and reparative therapy. The aim is generally to try to change a person’s sexual orientation, or to lessen their interest in engaging in same-sex sexual activity.

Q: What do experts say about the practice?

A: The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned the practice, and said it should not be used on minors because of the danger of serious psychological harm. Smaller groups, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, have defended the practice.

Q: Have any states passed laws dealing with this issue?

A: California and New Jersey have both passed laws barring licensed therapists from trying to turn gay youth straight, and both laws have been upheld in court. Similar bills have been proposed in several other states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed the ban in his state against the wishes of some conservatives, saying the health risks entailed in trying to change a child’s sexual orientation overrode concerns about parental choice.

Q: How does religion fit into the debate?

A: Some advocates of conversion therapy have asserted that prayer and religious faith can be helpful in suppressing or overcoming same-sex attractions. However, the largest Christian ministry engaged in such work, Exodus International, closed last year and its leader apologized to the gay community for inflicting “years of undue suffering.” The laws passed in New Jersey and California do not cover the activities of pastors and unlicensed counselors who provide therapy through church programs.

But a fight to remove the therapy language during the Texas GOP convention on Saturday could backfire, said Jeff Davis, chairman of gay conservative group Texas Log Cabin Republicans. A final platform vote would include nearly 10,000 delegates at the biennial convention, which has long been unfriendly territory for gays.

Davis said his group and its allies haven’t settled on a strategy, but that it may be better to adopt a longer-term plan to educate conservatives on the harms of psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight.

“Fighting it on the floor may not be the best court of action,” Davis said. “It might be in our best interest to wait until the convention is over and regroup.”

Under the new proposed plank, the Texas GOP would “recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”

The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned such counseling, which generally try to change a person’s sexual orientation or to lessen their interest in engaging in same-sex sexual activity. The groups say the practice should not be used on minors because of the danger of serious psychological harm.

But trying to strip the language from the Texas GOP platform could set off a contentious fight and result in alter ing the language even more. The therapy phrasing survived a key committee vote late Thursday, but hardliners had sought to change “homosexuality” in the platform to “sexual sins.”

Also on the table is removing decades-old language that states, “homosexuality tears at the fabric of society.” Davis said that was the only language his group sought to change at the convention, and that he still wanted to go home with that win.

The therapy language was inserted at the urging of Cathie Adams of Dallas, leader of the influential tea party group Texas Eagle Forum and a onetime chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party.

Adams, whose group backed tea party outsiders who dominated Texas Republican primary races this year, said she simply promoted language proposed by a man she said was helped by such therapy, which has been defended by some smaller groups, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

“He knows what he’s talking ab out. He is one of those who has benefited,” Adams said. “I think the majority of Texans feel that way too. It’s not like this is mandatory. This is only a voluntary program.”

In August, New Jersey became the second U.S. state to ban licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight. The bill was signed by Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate who opposes same-sex marriage but has said he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality isn’t a sin.

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Judges on a federal appeals court also upheld a similar ban in California last fall, saying that trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation through intense therapy appeared dangerous. The California Legislature has cited reports, experts and anecdotes involving suicides, substance abuse and other behavior by young recipients of the therapy.

Republican delegate Elizabeth Hunter, 20, said she didn’t see any reason for removing language that describes being gay as tearing at the fabric of society.

“I don’t see anybody leaving the Republican Party because of that language,” she said. “I think it would actually encourage someone to join when they see that the Republican Party takes a strong stand rather than standing in the middle.”

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