Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The GOP and Reparative Therapy: Why the Tea Party in Texas Just Opened a New Can of Worms for 2016

by Nomad

Thanks to a Supreme Court's decision, the idea of Reparative or Conversion therapy- attempting to convert gay people, including young adults, to happy heterosexuals, has been dealt a devastating blow. That's not a surprise.

The medical community has largely rejected the pseudo-science and warned of its psychological hazards.

So why did the Texas GOP 2014 platform come out strongly in support of it?


When No Comment is a Relief
So is this how far the Supreme Court has sunk?
A recent headline in ThinkProgress proclaims  the Supreme Court's decision not to rule on a controversial case involving a gay rights issue as a victory- a good thing. That says a lot about how much public trust remains with the High Court when the best news of the day comes when the Supreme Court stops making decisions. 

In this case, we can all breath a sigh of relief that the Court refused to intervene in the case, challenging California’s ban on ex-gay therapy for minors. That leaves the ban in place. And some conservatives were naturally peeved.

The case stems from a conservative challenge by the Pacific Justice Institute and ex-gay group NARTH and the Liberty Counsel to a California law banning such therapy. The lower courts had dismissed the conservative groups' claim that- wait for this- a ban violated the free speech of therapists.
As the article notes:
California was the first state to pass a law protecting minors from being subjected to therapies that attempt to de-gay their sexual orientations in 2012. Conservative groups promptly sued on behalf of ex-gay therapists who felt the ban infringed on their freedom of speech with clients. After two conflicting lower court rulings, the Ninth Circuit ruled last summer that the ban is constitutional. The conservative groups appealed to the Supreme Court, but its decision not to hear it means that the cases are over and the ban remains in place.
 For example, here is an excerpt from an article on the California law
It bans a form of medical treatment for minors; it does nothing to prevent licensed therapists from discussing the pros and cons of SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts ] with their patients....
 Treatment is not a form of free speech, the court decided and, therefore, deserves no protection.  
Because SB 1172 regulates only treatment, while leaving mental health providers free to discuss and recommend, or recommend against, SOCE, we conclude that any effect it may have on free speech interests is merely incidental.
What a relief: No therapist's free speech was injured in the making of that ruling. 

The threat is real too. In one informal survey, a staggering 90 % of former ex-gay therapy patients felt that the treatment had a negative impact on their lives.

The Ninth Circuit court decision stopped far short of declaring the ex-gay therapy harmful. The court did, however,  acknowledge the available evidence about "its lack of effectiveness and potential for harm was sufficient for the legislature to have instituted the ban."  
That's an understatement, as we shall see. 

But even that meek rejection by the courts didn't satisfy conservative groups and so, they appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.  Unquestionably, the groups launching the appeal were expecting the conservatives on the bench to come up with another of its blue-ribbon rulings. 

However, having done enough damage for the season, the court, rather wisely, put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on their chamber door. Even mischief-makers like Scalia and Thomas must get weary and bored with destroying the Constitution day in and day out.

Deep in the Heart of Texas
If, according to the non-decision decision of the Supreme Court, California has the right to ban reparative therapy as a violation of citizen's constitutional rights, then is the opposite true? That is, can a conservative-dominated legislature endorse something that SCOTUS has already implied was unconstitutional? 
The question is not academic or theoretical.
About two weeks ago, the Texas Republican Party at its recent annual convention proudly endorsed "reparative therapy" for gays under its 2014 party platform. In fact, this anti-gay position never even came up for a debate before approximately 7,000 delegates promptly ratified the wording. The entire platform in its final form has yet to be released but don't expect any change to this stance.

One influential tea party group called Texas Eagle Forum had urged the party to support psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight....
Under the new plank, the Texas GOP recognizes "the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."
That's a pretty audacious thing to say considering that the Texas GOP position flies in the face of numerous studies that underscore the psychological dangers of trying to force anybody to change their sexual orientation.

End Times and God's Mistakes
This anti-gay initiative is being led primarily by the group, Texas Eagle Forum. The chairman of that organization, Cathie Adams, was unseated by the present Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri in 2010. Adams, who has made a name for herself by gay bashing in Texas, loves stirring up things. She has launched vicious attacks on Wendy Davis who is running for Texas Governor. ("Her trailer-park days are over")
Adams has more recently prophesied that immigration reform will bring about "The End Times."

Being anti-gay must be a pretty popular stand in some parts of Texas. As usual, the boldly-uninformed Texas Governor Rick Perry compared gay people to alcoholics. He said that remark during an appearance at the Commonwealth Club in- of all places- San Francisco. According to one witness the remark drew "murmurs of disbelief." 
He clearly forgot he was not in Lubbock that day.

But back in Texas, you only get nods of approval for saying things of that sort. For instance, State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, recently supported the platform’s “reparative therapy” plank in an appearance on CNN. He called, homosexuality a “mistake.” 

But whose mistake? God's? That's heresy, sir, and not so long ago you could have been strung up from the nearest oak tree for insulting the Lord. 
In today's Tea Party Texas, pointing out God's errors is not arrogance, it's a political plus.

Back in the Real World
Of course, it wouldn't be the first time the Republicans have pushed this dangerous nonsense. During the 2012 president election, Herman Cain, for example, supported the conversion therapy. He must have assumed it was a winning position, but, as we saw, most of his opinions failed to win many people over.
His campaign vanished with hardly a gurgle or gulp.

Many in the medical community were disturbed by the politicization of the issue. One site, Human Right Campaign, quotes a doctor:
“Herman Cain’s opinion that being gay is a choice has no basis in current scientific thinking,” said Dr. Jack Drescher, MD, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of the DSM-5 Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. “Not only is homosexuality ‘not a choice,’ as most efforts to try and change a person's sexual orientation fail, but some attempts to change can cause harm and damage to an individual’s well-being.”
Republicans cannot seem to agree amongst themselves. Is being gay a wrong choice, or a debilitating affliction or a just divine mistake on God's off day?
  
The American Psychiatric Association doesn't think it can or should be cured. It issued this statement:
"Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or 'repair' homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of "cures" are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm"
The same article  provides a short list of organizations that have condemned - in no ambiguous terms- this form of brainwashing:
  • American Medical Association,  
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Psychoanalytic Association,
  • American School Counselor Association
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization
That's a hell of a lot of medical science for one political party to take arms against, especially with the kind of logic ammo they have at hand.

A Lone Lost Voice of Reason
Despite all of the science and the medical community's complete rejection of the principle to sexual orientation conversion therapy, the Republican party in Texas, (presumably under pressure from religious groups within the Tea Party minority) have offered its (mostly) unqualified support for "fixing" gay people.
After all, "reparative" comes from the word "repair" suggesting something is broken. When was the last time you heard anybody suggesting that Jewish or Muslim or black or Hispanics- or any other minority- need to be fixed?

You might think that not a single State Republicans gave a hoot either about children or about science. However, that's not quite true. Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri at the very least cares about winning elections. He has publicly rejected the state's GOP platform position on anti-gay therapy. 

In a radio interview, Munisteri said that emails and phone calls to his office are “overwhelmingly opposed” to the “reparative therapy” plank in the platform.
“I just make the point for anybody that thinks that may be the possibility: Do they think they can take a straight person to a psychiatrist and turn them gay?”
A very good point. A truly Christian viewpoint too.

Imagine the outcry if there were crusading gay therapists that could, through much-discredited brainwashing methods, change your heterosexual son or daughter into a homosexual? Straight or gay why would anybody approve of that kind of psychological tampering? Why should anybody trust an unlicensed but well-paid therapist with the lifelong happiness of their child?  

In short, regardless how you may feel about homosexuality in general, do any of us have the right to fiddle around with our son's and daughter's sexual nature? Isn't acceptance the first and most essential form of love?

If religion is your only excuse, (overriding the welfare of your child and his God-given identity) then look to the East and see where the thorough brainwashing of children through religion can lead? 
It's just as possible to see the gay issue not as God's mistake but as a test for the rest of us. A test of our humanity and tolerance. That makes as much sense as all of the hateful and vicious remarks you constantly hear coming out of places like Amarillo or Abilene, or Moscow, Saudi Arabia and Tehran.

This, in turn, opens another question: what about the rights of teenagers and children to be protected? If embryos and corporations have rights and protections, shouldn't children have protections from psychological and religious predators?

The Supreme Court has shown - at least, by its non-interference- that it believes that the state has a legitimate right to protect children. In California. Call that a victory for progress if you like but it seems pretty obvious to the rest of the world. 

And yet.. in this day and age, the Texas GOP disagrees. 

A Golden Opportunity
Looking at it from a purely political perspective, this is just a classic case in which the Tea Party has pushed the Republican party in a far right position that could have unpredictable consequences in November. 

It doesn't take much political acumen to see this ill-advised platform position as a golden opportunity for liberal and progressive Democrats. Maybe it is time to ask: Does Rick Perry or Ted Cruz- or anybody else from Texas who has hinted at presidential aspirations in 2016- actually endorse this Texas GOP platform in its entirety?
Say it, Ricky, loud and proud. Yes or No.

(We don't need to ask Hillary Clinton where she stands. She has said repeatedly that gay rights are human rights.) 

What might play well in rootin' tootin' Texas would be an unmitigated disaster on the national stage and this is a perfect example? Does the Republican National Committee also support this conversation therapy position? Would this soundly-condemned form of brainwashing be part of its so-called "core values"- like its opposition to gay marriage?
Liberals might hope so. 
We have all seen how that particular Republican party position went down in humiliating flames, thanks again to the non-interference of the Supreme Court. 

You'd think some people could learn from past mistakes. Apparently not so with the Republicans in Texas. It's a matter of pride and celebration.


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