The Texas Republican Party gave its final nod to a party platform endorsing so-called gay conversion therapy, which seeks to turn homosexuals straight. They also moved to scrub decades-old language claiming "homosexuality tears at the fabric of society."
The new policy on “reparative therapy” was ushered through Saturday without debate at the annual Texas GOP convention held this year in Fort Worth. All in all, 7,000 delegates turned up to endorse a Tea Party-inspired party platform pushing Texas Republicans farther to the right on a raft of social and policy issues.
Under the new platform, the Texas GOP now recognizes "the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."
The therapy language was included at the request of Cathie Adams of Dallas, leader of the influential Tea Party group Texas Eagle Forum and a onetime chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party, AP reported.
Adams, whose group rallied behind Tea Party candidates who dominated Texas Republican primary races this year, claimed she was only promoting a proposal which had been endorsed by a man who underwent the therapy.
"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.”
The party did in fact temper its stance in one regard, removing a decades-old section from the party’s platform which said: “We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God.”
According to the Houston Chronicle, this change was met with some resistance on Thursday, with at least one delegate demanding the committee return to the platform language about homosexuality tearing at the fabric of society.
The Texas GOP is believed to be countering recent moves countering bans on conversion therapy targeting teens which have recently been introduced in New Jersey and California. In August, the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, signed into a law a bill banning licensed therapists from attempting to turn gay teens straight.
Judges on a federal appeals court also upheld a similar ban in California last fall, arguing that trying to change a minor's sexual orientation through intense therapy appeared dangerous.
This opinion lines up with major health and psychological organizations. In 2012, the Pan American Health Organization (the combined North and South American chapter of the World Health Organization) warned against services claiming to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientations as they lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.
The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants have all been critical of conversion therapy.
Apart from the issue of homosexual conversion, the Texas Republican Party platform draft also supports “total constitutional rights for the unborn child,” backs “eliminating bureaucratic prohibitions on corporal discipline and home schooling in foster homes," and calls for “the United States House of Representatives to appoint a select committee and a special prosecutor in order to subpoena testimony to fully investigate all aspects of the Benghazi debacle.”
Meanwhile, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that half of Americans believe same-sex marriage is a constitutionally-protected right. Fifty percent agree the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment grants marriage rights to same-sex couples, while 56 percent personally believe gays and lesbians have a right to get married. In contrast, 43 percent said same-sex marriage is not constitutionally protected, while 38 percent oppose it on grounds of personal belief.
Some conservatives in Texas believe rallying behind such causes will only serve to alienate younger voters, 70 percent of whom support same-sex marriage, according to a 2013 Pew Poll.
"There's a very, very small group of people who want to keep the party in the past. We were here today to try to pull the party into the future," Rudy Oeftering, vice president of the gay conservative group Metroplex Republicans, told AP. "The only way the party can go into the future is to start listening to young people, to start listening to people who have gay family members."