FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Gay Republicans in Texas said Friday they may stop fighting their party’s proposed endorsement of “reparative therapy” over worries that even tougher anti-gay language could be added to the party platform.
The Texas Republican Party is poised to adopt a new platform this weekend that would support psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight. Such therapies were banned for minors last year by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, and California has a similar law.
But a fight to remove the therapy language during the Texas GOP convention on Saturday could backfire, said Jeff Davis, chairman of gay conservative group Texas Log Cabin Republicans. A final platform vote would include nearly 10,000 delegates at the biennial convention, which has long been unfriendly territory for gays.
Davis said his group and its allies haven’t settled on a strategy, but that it may be better to adopt a longer-term plan to educate conservatives on the harms of psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight.
“Fighting it on the floor may not be the best court of action,” Davis said. “It might be in our best interest to wait until the convention is over and regroup.”
Under the new proposed plank, the Texas GOP 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.”
The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned such counseling, which generally try to change a person’s sexual orientation or to lessen their 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 trying to strip the language from the Texas GOP platform could set off a contentious fight and result in altering the language even more. The therapy phrasing survived a key committee vote late Thursday, but hardliners had sought to change “homosexuality” in the platform to “sexual sins.”
Also on the table is removing decades-old language that states, “homosexuality tears at the fabric of society.” Davis said that was the only language his group sought to change at the convention, and that he still wanted to go home with that win.
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.”
In August, New Jersey became the second U.S. state to ban licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight. The bill was signed by Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate who opposes same-sex marriage but has said he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
Judges on a federal appeals court also upheld a similar ban in California last fall, saying that trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation through intense therapy appeared dangerous. The California Legislature has cited reports, experts and anecdotes involving suicides, substance abuse and other behavior by young recipients of the therapy.
Republican delegate Elizabeth Hunter, 20, said she didn’t see any reason for removing language that describes being gay as tearing at the fabric of society.
“I don’t see anybody leaving the Republican Party because of that language,” she said. “I think it would actually encourage someone to join when they see that the Republican Party takes a strong stand rather than standing in the middle.”