Over the past 13 months, Donald Trump has been rightly described as scary, dangerous, misogynistic and racist.
Now, he’s about to formally join up with a running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in a ceremony officiated by the Republican National Committee, in a marriage much scarier and more dangerous than anything we’ve seen so far.
While Trump holds many conservative views and uses exceptionally incendiary language, he doesn’t hold a candle to Pence’s policy positions or the platform that the RNC adopted this week.
Pence’s views—and, most important, his record as a member of Congress and now governor—on a whole host of issues from reproductive rights to LGBT rights are more extreme than any vice-presidential nominee in modern history.
Despite his hatred for “big government,” Pence has repeatedly used government as a tool to discriminate against the LGBT community. He’s been a pioneer in crafting innovative strategies and nuanced language to subject LGBT Americans to discrimination while shielding himself from ridicule.
Like many on the right, Pence favors withholding rights from LGBT Americans, from adoption rights to allowing same-sex couples to marry. But he takes his bigotry a step further by favoring laws and policies that give legal protection to people to discriminate against members of the LGBT community.
But what’s most disturbing is Pence’s years of advocacy for conversion therapy, the insidious “treatment” that abuses LGBT adults and youth to supposedly eliminate or dramatically reduce their attraction to the same sex or their desire to express a different gender from the gender they were born with.
The American Psychological Association, The American Medical Association, and 11 other major medical organizations reject conversion therapy because they don’t believe that there is a disorder to “fix,” they don’t believe one can actually change orientation or gender identity and that attempting doing so is dangerous and harmful, particularly to LGBT youth.
The techniques therapists have used to try to change sexual orientation and gender identity are horrifying. They include inducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis while showing the patient homoerotic images; providing electric shocks; using shame to create aversion to same-sex attractions. Other techniques include trying to make patients’ behavior more stereotypically feminine or masculine, teaching heterosexual dating skills, using hypnosis to try to redirect desires and arousal.
It’s no wonder that LGBT youth who are forced to face conversion therapy are, according to the American Psychological Association, 8.9 times as likely to be suicidal, 5.9 times as likely to be depressive, and three times as likely to use illegal drugs.
Some organizations and therapists that engage in conversion therapy have become more strategic after significant backlash and have softened their approach. But they still engage in psychological torture by convincing LGBT youth that what they are feeling is unnatural and needs to be changed.
In 2000, when Pence ran for Congress successfully in Indiana, he proposed that Ryan White Act Money intended for organizations providing HIV/AIDS care be redirected from organizations that support LGBT rights to “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
His intention was clear. Even though he knew LGBT organizations were providing critical lifesaving HIV/AIDS services, he said they were promoting the homosexual lifestyle and that the federal government’s money would be better spent elsewhere.
If Pence’s position sounds fringe, remember that the GOP has now adopted conversion therapy into its national platform. This is shocking. As our nation becomes more progressive on LGBT rights, a major political party took a giant leap back.
Worse yet, the amendment to the platform was introduced by the leader of a hate group, Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council. Initially, his amendment was very explicit in mentioning conversion therapy, but after consulting with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus he made the language more innocuous even as the meaning stayed insidious:
“We support the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy, for their minor children,” the amendment said.
After this change, Chairman Priebus told reporters including NBC’s Chuck Todd that he had pulled the conversion amendment—but all he did was remove the word “conversion.” How shameful. Chairman Priebus oversaw the most anti-LGBT platform in the entire 162 year history of the party and he couldn’t even be honest about it.
For the first time in our presidential history, a major party candidate and a major party support child abuse, even child torture, as part of their platform. That’s not hyperbole, that’s exactly what conversion therapy is. In fact, all known methods of conversion therapy meet the definition of torture under the Geneva Convention’s definition.
I accept that parties add certain policies to their platform or that some candidates choose to offer red meat to their supporters, but I draw the line when it comes to forcing a child into a treatment program that they don’t deserve, that won’t be effective, and exposes them to abuse and even torture that will haunt them for a lifetime.
Elected officials are finally beginning to get the message, states that ban conversion therapy include California, Oregon, New Jersey, Illinois and the District of Columbia. Every time a law is passed, it’s challenged in the courts. They have constantly upheld laws banning conversion therapy.
Each year, our nation continues to become more and more accepting of LGBT Americans and their civil rights continue to expand, rights that are not special, but are the basic rights that heterosexual or cis-gendered Americans have taken for granted.
What the GOP is promoting with a platform that supports the torture of LGBT youth is a horrifying reality; one that is made worse by their attempts to use nuanced language to cover up their bigotry.
But what is more sinister is that they’ve targeted their bigotry at the most vulnerable of our population, our children, who don’t have a voice or a vote.
For years the GOP denied that LGBT Americans even existed. When they couldn’t do that anymore, they did everything they could to deny them their rights.
And now, by supporting conversion therapy in their platform, by nominating Pence for vice-president, Republicans have finally admitted what we have suspected all along: They just want LGBT Americans to disappear.