Last week, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Ken Blackwell to be the head of domestic policy during the real estate mogul’s transition into the White House.
Blackwell has made anti-LGBT statements for years, among them, that homosexuality is a sin, and that gay people, just like petty thieves and arsonists, can be rehabilitated. He has long endorsed the debunked mental health therapy known as conversion or reparative therapy, with its goal to ‘cure’ a person of his or her homosexuality, and in the case of transgender people, to reaffirm the gender of their birth.
The treatments include everything from inducing vomit to using mild electric shock while patients viewed homoerotic images. For over two decades, conversion therapy has been denounced by many medical and scientific societies. It has been outlawed in some states.
In 2014, in a radio interview with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, which is deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the former Cincinnati mayor seemed to blame the deaths of six people in a shooting in Isla Vista, California, earlier that year on the LGBT rights movement, claiming it undermined “natural marriage.”
“When these fundamental institutions are attacked and destroyed and weakened and abandoned, you get what we are now seeing, and that is a flood of these disturbed people in our society that are causing great pain.
And when he was running to be governor of Ohio in 2006, Blackwell claimed that being gay was a “choice” that could be “changed.” Speaking to the Columbus Dispatch, he said:
“I think it’s a transgression against God’s law. And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one’s genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think they can be changed? Yes.”
Then, in 2009, on Michelangelo Signorile’s radio show, he reiterated his position, “People choose to be who they are, as they choose to break civil law and God’s law … I think you can choose not to be homosexual.”
Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, the two leading organizations of psychiatry and psychology professionals, removed homosexuality from their list of mental illnesses in the mid 1970’s; the World Health Organization followed suit in 1981. And just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges decided in favor of same sex marriage, holding that being gay was “a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”
But, Blackwell is not the exactly the highest ranking official within Camp Trump to approve of conversion therapy. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has also appeared to support it. When he was running for Congress in 2000, his website declared that money set aside by the federal CARE Act, to help indigent HIV/AIDS patients, also be “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
A leading scholar on the subject, psychologist Douglas Haldeman, in his book ‘Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy,’ said “reparative therapy inaccurately implies ‘broken-ness’ as the distinctive feature of homosexuality.”
“The promotion of reparative or conversion therapy goes beyond its obvious market of disaffected lesbian, gay and bisexual people. This campaign attempts to influence public opinion and justify anti-gay discrimination by inaccurately portraying homosexuality as a mental disorder and social evil. Conversion therapy, then, is more than just a clinical issue. It figures prominently in the national debate over lesbian and gay civil rights.”
In 1999, a report titled “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation” was released. It specifically denounced conversion therapy as having little or no efficacy and instead contributing to discrimination against the LGBT community.