A Dallas billboard claiming that therapy intended to turn gay people straight "really works" will soon be removed, the president of the advertising company that operates the billboard tells The Advocate.
Terry Kafka, president of Dallas-based Impact Advertising, says he was unaware of the billboard over U.S. Highway 75 near the Royal Lane exit until contacted by The Advocate Wednesday morning.
The text on the billboard reads "focused therapy… Reparative Therapy … real transformation." Touting "Authentic counseling," the largest text on the billboard claims "Real Therapy … Really Works" and includes the URL ReparativeTherapyCenter.com, which automatically redirects to prominent "ex-gay" therapist David Pickup's website, DavidPickupLMFT.com
"We had been told and led to believe this is marriage therapy, that it's couples' therapy," Kafka told The Advocate via phone. "Now we're looking at the website and we see that was not actually the case. To be very honest with you, we had no idea what we were putting up."
Kafka repeatedly stressed that he, as the company's president, and the company's sales manager both have a "live and let live policy," and indicated that if either executive had realized the billboard was controversial, it would have gone through a more rigorous review process.
Now that the agency is aware of the nature of the content being advertised, Kafka says he plans to remove the billboard "within a week." He noted that the billboard has been up for just over two weeks of its contractually obligated four-week run, but "we'll probably take [the ad from] him down early and give him a refund."
"Worst-case scenario," Kafka continued, "the board comes down January 26."
Towleroad's John Wright first reported on the billboard Tuesday and received confirmation from Pickup that he purchased the billboard and that the website listed directs to his personal page. Pickup is a board member with the National Association of Research and Therapy for Homosexuality, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the "main source for antigay 'junk science.'" Despite the persistence of Pickup and a small cadre of right-wing advocates, so-called ex-gay therapy has been denounced as harmful by every major medical and psychological institution in the country, with the American Psychological Association stating that there is "no scientifically adequate research" that such efforts are "safe or effective."
When The Advocate informed Kafka that efforts to change a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity have been outlawed in New Jersey, California, and Washington, D.C., the Impact Advertising president said that was news to him, but that he was "not surprised."
"It's very extreme, and it's radical," Kafka continued. "We are not on that bandwagon. … We are not a proponent of it, and we put [the billboard] up basically unaware of what it was."
Kafka told The Advocate he had never before heard of the scientifically discredited practice and also claimed he was unaware that the Texas Republican Party had included a controversial endorsement of so-called reparative therapy in its 2014 platform.
A similar saga unfolded late last year in Richmond, Virginia, when the anti-LGBT group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) purchased a billboard that proclaimed, "We believe twins research shows nobody is born gay." Public outrage — including from the model whose stock photo was used, who told a local news network that he is not a twin but is an out and proud gay man living in South Africa — was swift, and ultimately led Lamar Advertising, which operated the billboard, to offer the local LGBT center free advertising space on digital billboards throughout the state with a message combatting PFOX's hate. Set against an image of Richmonders rallying against the PFOX billboard, the digital ad (which appears an estimated 1,300 times per day as the image constantly loops through a cycle with five other ads) simply reads, "We are all born to love."