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At State Convention, Texas Republicans Call For Conversion Therapy For Gays

Shelley Kofler
From left: Rudy Oeftering with Metroplex Republicans and Jonathan Saenz with Texas Values Action disagreed on how gays should be represented in the Texas Republican Party platform.

The Texas Republican Party over the weekend endorsed counseling aimed at making gay people straight. 

Leading up to last week's state convention in Fort Worth, gay Republicans convinced party platform writers to remove decades-old language they found offensive.Gone was a statement that said: “The practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit.”

What replaced it though was a concept many gays and lesbians found just as unacceptable: a call to offer reparative therapy, sometimes called conversion therapy, “for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”

Reparative therapy has been banned for minors in California and New Jersey. The American Psychiatric Association opposesreparative or conversion therapy.

Supporters: People "change their sexuality all the time"

Jonathan Saenz with the group Texas Values Action was among those at the state GOP convention pushing for the platform to include reparative therapy. 

“There are people who change their sexuality all the time. It’s well-documented,” Saenz said. “We see people in Hollywood who come out as gay even though they were with someone of the opposite sex before.”

Saenz said the Texas Republican Party is promoting the kind of choice New Jersey and California have taken away.

“Texas Republicans want to make clear: If a parent wants to take their child and have a discussion with a counselor about their questions about sexuality, they should have the freedom to do that,” Saenz said.

Conversion therapy is "unethical," gay Republicans say

But Rudy Oeftering said including reparative therapy in the Texas Republican Party platform is about more than choice. He’s with Metroplex Republicans, which has gay members.

“The Republican Party in its platform appears to be endorsing it and that’s what we have a problem with,” Oeftering said.

“Every professional counseling group we could find said it’s unethical to administer reparative therapy," he added. "It’s unethical to refer people to reparative therapists. Reparative therapists, there’s no formal training, there’s no formal certification.”

The Texas Republican platform also includes another statement that offends Oeftering and others. It says: “Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible.”

A younger delegate reacts

Colter Keathley, 18, a delegate from Victoria, believes many younger Republicans like him reject that idea.

“My generation doesn’t actually view homosexuality as a choice,” Keathley said. 

“Many of my friends, my brother even, he’s gay. And he knew he was gay since he was a little kid. When I read this sentence -- the reason I want it gone -- I read Landon, my brother, is ‘contrary to God, the Founders and a majority of Texans,’ and I don’t believe that.”

Oeftering says a lot of other Republican delegates don’t believe it, either. 

He says he might have had enough support to rid the platform of reparative therapy and some of the other language if the debate had been allowed on the convention floor.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.