Senator Al Franken questioned Betsy DeVos over donations to Focus on the Family in confirmation hearings yesterday. The Michigan billionaire philanthropist was nominated for Secretary of Education.
The New Republic reports that many exchanges with Democratic Senators showed that DeVos has little understanding of debates on education policy. Franken started his questioning by asking DeVos for her opinion on the proficiency-vs-growth in standardized testing scores debate, and she seemed unaware that the debate exists.
He moved on to discussing her support for Focus on the Family, an organization that continues to support therapy that has the goal of changing LGBT people’s sexual orientations and gender identities. DeVos responded that she “fully embrace[s] equality.”
Video is below, and the exchange on conversion therapy begins halfway through.
Franken: Mrs. DeVos, your family has a long history of supporting anti-LGBT causes including donating millions of dollars to groups that push conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, you and your family have given over $10 million to Focus On the Family, an organization that currently states on its website that, “homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity.” Mrs. DeVos, conversion therapy has been widely discredited and rejected for decades by every mainstream medical and mental health organization as neither medically nor ethically appropriate. It has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide, particularly in LGBT youth. In fact, many of the leaders and founders of conversion therapy, including both religious ministries and mental health professionals, have not only publicly renounced it but have issued formal apologies for their work and how harmful it has been to the individuals involved. Mr. Chairman, I would ask that this be included in the record.
Chairman: It will be.
Franken: Mrs. DeVos, do you still believe in conversion therapy?
DeVos: Senator Franken, I’ve never believed in that. First of all, let me say I fully embrace equality and I believe in the innate value of every single human being and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination. So let’s start there and let me just say that your characterization of our contributions I don’t think accurately reflects those of my family. I would hope you wouldn’t include other family members beyond my core family.