Politicians receive lots of emails and phone calls, so it's always a surprise to get a response from one, especially a personal note from the legislator himself.
Caleb Laieski -- an LGBT rights advocate invited to the White House in 2011 after he battled bullying at his Arizona high school -- was at first delighted when South Carolina state Sen. Mike Fair did just that. But it turns out the email threw a series of insults, calling Laieski "warped," "sick," and "shameful."
Laieski had written to the Republican about a proposed ban on "ex-gay" or "conversion" therapy, which attempts to turn LGBT youth straight or cisgender (nontrans). The therapy has been denounced by every major medical and mental health organization and banned in four states (and the District of Columbia) from Oregon to New Jersey.
On Apr 9, 2016, at 2:38 AM, Caleb Laieski wrote:
As an elected leader, I urge you to ensure legislation is introduced and passed to ban damaging conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy refers to the practice to change and help "cure" someone's sexual orientation. Sadly, this practice is used on minors, who have no legal authority to make their own medical decisions. These practices lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, suicidal behavior, and frequently result in suicide. That is why physiological, medical, and counseling associations are against this practice.
The associations also agree that this practice is ineffective, as well as extremely harmful, and damaging to individuals that go through these programs. A few of these organizations include: The American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, National Association of Social Workers, and the World Health Organization.
Without question, there is very clear evidence that conversion therapy does not work and only traumatizes patients more. Several states have passed laws banning licensed therapists from subjecting minors to such treatment, and I urge you to join the movement. Please introduce and pass legislation that prohibits state-licensed mental healthcare providers from advertising or providing "conversion therapy" or "pray away the gay" therapy to anyone under the age of eighteen.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration,
National Advocate for the LGBT Community, Public Safety, and the Environment
Less than 36 hours later, Laieski heard from the senator:
From: Mike Fair
Subject: Re: Ban Conversion Therapy
Date: April 10, 2016 at 10:34:23 AM EDT
To: Caleb Laieski
Please do not ignore the science in promoting your agenda.
Pediatric neurologists recognize and stand by the claim, empirically proven, that the brain's elasticity doesn't disappear following puberty and kids continue to change remarkably right through the end of adolescence which could be the mid twenties.
Your encouragement of life altering surgery as a young teen but fighting against counseling from those who are no longer in the ethereal and sick behavior involving same sex sexual profligacy is beyond irresponsibility. Your warped advocacies are shameful.
The Advocate made several inquiries to the lawmaker's office to confirm that Fair himself sent the email to Laieski, but emails and phone calls went unanswered. The message does appear to come from Fair's professional email address, and his initials end the missive.
Laieski has not received further correspondence from the senator. "I was quite offended by the tone and negative connotation of his email," Laieski tells The Advocate. "Furthermore, he sent his email response to me via his government-issued South Carolina email address. Is this even proper protocol when responding to a concerned citizen? If he disagreed with my email, he should have been civil and respectfully said 'I disagree' or 'thanks' or simply not responded."
Fair's LGBT animus is already well-documented. The senator from Greenville objected in 2014 to the teaching of Fun Home, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated graphic novel by out author Alison Bechdel, at South Carolina colleges. At the time, Fair said the book -- later turned into a Tony-winning musical -- "crossed lines and started indoctrination, or enculturation really, as opposed to teaching."
That same year, Fair railed against the presentation of a play called How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less at the University of South Carolina Upstate. Decrying the show as a "recruitment" tool, he said in a TV interview that offering students such material was like exposing them to "skinheads and radical Islam." The performance was canceled.
Laieski says he won't be intimidated by the senator. That's not surprising, considering he asked President Obama for a job when he met him at a White House Pride event five years ago. Laieski was invited to Washington following his high-profile campaign urging Arizona schools to take action against anti-LGBT bullying like he encountered.
Now living in Washington, D.C., and working as a 911 dispatcher, Laieski remains passionate about LGBT equality, regularly contacting conservative politicians and urging them to see the light. None has been as disrespectful as Fair, though.
"Where his comments were absurd and disrespectful, his email certainly empowers me to keep up the important fight," says Laieski.
Fair has represented the state's sixth Senate district since 1995, reports Greenville News. He announced his re-election bid in January, and will face off against Democratic challenger and local businessman Johnny Edwards, according to the local paper. Fair currently chairs the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee, as well as the Public Safety/Criminal Justice subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee. Fair also sits on the Senate Education Committee, the Medical Affairs Committee, and the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, which the paper describes as an "independent, non-partisan committee that works to improve educational accountability and foster improvement.".