By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com June 09 2014 1:58 PM ET
Texas Republicans adopted a radical right-wing party platform at the statewide annual convention Saturday, not only opposing marriage equality but endorsing "ex-gay" therapy, which aims to turn people straight, and opposing "the assault on marriage by judicial activists."
The virulently antigay platform was not actually debated before it was adopted Saturday by a majority of the estimated 7,000 Republican delegates who gathered at the Fort Worth Convention Hall, reports the Associated Press. The state's most prominent Republican leaders addressed the three-day convention, including current governor Rick Perry, U.S. senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Texas's U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
The official party platform did strike a decades-old declaration that claimed "homosexuality tears at the fabric of society," but replaced it with even more virulent antigay language, adopting policies and rhetoric that some LGBT activists say are outright dangerous.
The Texas GOP's official platform now includes the following planks, according to David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement:
"Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.
"We oppose any government agency to force faith-based adoption or foster care organizations to place children with same-sex couples.
"We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman."
While the opposition to marriage equality, combined with support for state versions and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (a key segment of which was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last June), is to be expected from the conservative party in the deeply red state, the endorsement of so-called sexual orientation change efforts drew strong condemnations from LGBT advocates.
"I have spent the majority of my adult life working to overcome the horrific consequences of conversion therapy, and I have dedicated my professional life to eradicating this vile practice," Ryan Kendall, a survivor of ex-gay therapy and one of the leading national advocates pushing for the criminalization of the scientifically discredited practice, tells The Advocate. "So when the news came down that the Texas GOP had taken the repugnant step of enshrining this hateful practice within its platform, it felt like a hot knife slicing through my soul. The pain of this act was visceral, and it is all too real for too many LGBT children and adults. Let me be perfectly clear: Conversion therapy is junk science that kills children. Often those of us who advocate against conversion therapy struggle to find survivors to speak out about their experiences because the individuals we find are either too emotionally damaged to bear it, or worse yet, they did not survive, instead taking their own lives. Put simply, conversion therapy is a very real threat to the lives of countless LGBT people in Texas, the United States, and abroad in places like Uganda and elsewhere."
"Reparative therapy," alternately known as an effort to "pray away the gay," has been condemned by every serious medical, mental health, and psychiatric organization in the U.S. and many abroad. The American Psychological Association has declared the practice not only ineffective but harmful to those subjected to treatment, noting that "such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure."
Use of the practice on minors has been outlawed in California and New Jersey — and in both states, the laws has been upheld by a federal court when challenged by antigay activists. Similar legislation is still pending in New York, with lawmakers hearing public testimony — including an address from Kendall — last month.
While the Texas GOP adopted a decidedly right-wing platform — which also calls for the full repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, demands the U.S. drop out of the United Nations, and suggests a nationwide database to track HIV-positive Americans — Texans on the other side of the aisle were quick to distance themselves.
Democrat Wendy Davis, who rose to prominence during her day-long filibuster in the State Senate attempting to block a restrictive abortion bill and who is now running for governor, tweeted out her thoughts on the GOP's platform Sunday:
Unlike @TexasGOP, I believe that LGBT Texans #DontNeedFixin. #RPTCON14 pic.twitter.com/UxdNGEEJX1
— Wendy Davis (@WendyDavisTexas) June 6, 2014