President-elect Donald Trump last week named Ken Blackwell — a man with a long anti-LGBT history — his domestic policy adviser.
Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council (FRC), classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group that “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.”
Blackwell has been making anti-LGBT statements for years, including in 2014 when he blamed support for gay marriage for the deadly Isla Vista shootings in California.
“When you see the crumbling of the moral foundation of the country, you see the attack on natural marriage,” Blackwell said in an interview with Tony Perkins, president of the FRC. “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 that are causing great pain. And as opposed to dealing with the foundational problem, we look for ways of blaming the Second Amendment or blaming knives.”
Blackwell previously served as mayor of Cincinnati, as well as state treasurer and secretary of state for Ohio. In 2014 when Federal Judge Timothy Black announced that Ohio had to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages (before they were legalized nationwide), Blackwell released a statement slamming the measure.
“This is another example of how the will of the people is being subverted by misguided activist judges,” Blackwell said. “The fact is that Ohioans affirmed natural marriage at the ballot box and will continue to resist efforts to redefine marriage. The opponents of natural marriage are frustrated by this expressed will of the people.”
In 2006 Blackwell ran for governor in Ohio and lost. During his campaign he made statements endorsing conversion therapy and said that being gay is a choice that “can be changed.”
“I think it’s a transgression against God’s law,” he said. “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.”
In a 2008 interview Michelangelo Signorile questioned Blackwell on these previous statements.
“But you realize people were insulted when you compared [homosexuality] to arson and kleptomania,” Signorile said. “I would like you to explain that because, how does that get into this whole ‘choice’ issue I mean, kleptomania is a compulsion. ”
“Well, the fact is, you can choose to restrain that compulsion,” Blackwell answered. “And so I think in fact you don’t have to give in to the compulsion to be homosexual. I think that’s been proven in case after case after case.”
“If in fact you would feel better for me to say to you that, one, I believe homosexuality is a compulsion that can be contained, repressed or changed, and that makes you feel better, then that is what I’m saying in the clearest of terms,” Blackwell added.
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. However, some therapists continue to use conversion, or reformative, therapy. The “therapy” is designed to “cure” people who identify as homosexual, bisexual or transgender. It has been outlawed in several states because not only have experts deemed it fraudulent, it has also been proven to be harmful in some cases, particularly in children and adolescents.
In 2008 the American Psychological Association published “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel.” The publication was endorsed by numerous prestigious organizations, including the American Counseling Association and the National Association of School Psychologists. The publication reiterates the widely accepted belief in the world of psychology that homosexuality is not a disorder and therefore cannot be “cured”:
“The most important fact about these ‘therapies’ is that they are based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, which defines the standards of the field, does not include homosexuality. All other major health professional organizations have supported the American Psychiatric Association in its declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. Thus, the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or that the emergence of same-sex attraction and orientation among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy has no support among any mainstream health and mental health professional organizations.”
The report also suggests schools reject this therapy as it may be harmful for LGBT students, who, the text notes, are already more likely to face discrimination in their schools, communities and families: “The promotion in schools of efforts to change sexual orientation by therapy or through religious ministries seems likely to exacerbate the risk of harassment, harm, and fear for these youth.”
Vice-president elect Mike Pence also has an anti-LGBT history and is believed to support conversion therapy as well. In 2000, when Pence was running for Congress, his campaign website had a section regarding allocation of funds for the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, a 1990 law that provides financial assistance for HIV/AIDS treatment for patients who cannot afford it on their own. His website stated, “Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”