Fort Worth, Texas - Republicans in the deeply conservative and fiercely independent state of Texas are pushing a discredited psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay people straight.
The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned such counseling, which generally tries to change a person's sexual orientation or to lessen his or her 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 a push to include the new anti-gay language in the Texas Republican Party's platform survived a key vote late Thursday at the party's convention in Fort Worth, and the party is poised to adopt it this weekend.
The move by Texas Republicans comes amid a growing acceptance of same-sex marriage throughout the United States. State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the US Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Gay couples can already marry in 19 of 50 states plus Washington, DC, And in eight more states including Texas, federal judges have struck down bans and officials decided not to appeal.
But the Texas Republican Convention has long been unfriendly territory for gays, even conservative ones. For years, the party has refused to let gay Republican organizations rent booths in the convention hall.
Now, Texas Republicans are proposing language that 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.”
California and New Jersey have banned licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight. The California Legislature has cited reports, experts and anecdotes involving suicides, substance abuse and other behavior by young recipients of the therapy.
In Texas, 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 about. 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.”