By Rob Burgess
— On June 11, Texas Gov. Rick Perry addressed the Commonwealth Club of California at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco. During the forum portion of the event, moderator Greg Dalton asked an audience question which strayed from the advertised topic of the discussion, “Energy Independence in America.”
“Do you believe homosexuals can be cured by prayer or counseling?” read Dalton. A smattering of titters in the crowd and an awkward silence on stage followed.
“I don’t know,” said Perry. “I don’t. I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m not a doctor. I’m, um, so…”
“Is it a disorder?” asked Dalton, as a follow-up.
In response, Perry first mentioned his debut 2011 book, “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For” before wading into choppier waters.
“I talked about that people make choices in life and whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not you have the ability to decide not to do that,” said Perry. “And I made the point [of] talking about alcoholism. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that and I look at the homosexual issue as the same way.”
David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer, was in attendance and noted the palpable unease this statement produced.
“The large crowd gathered … included many Perry supporters,” wrote Baker on Thursday. “But the comment still drew a murmur of disbelief.”
Perry — who has been not-so-secretly gunning for another shot at the Republican presidential nomination — suddenly found himself at the center of a national controversy. He chose to explain himself Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“I have a really high bar for what I would take offense to, but that would exceed the bar for me on being an offensive comment,” Joe Kernan, anchor, told Perry.
Perry deflected by pretending he had been asked about states’ rights, the 10th Amendment, job creation, the Environmental Protection Agency and President Obama. Kernan pressed on.
“You don’t think there should be therapy to try to change [a homosexual person] into a heterosexual?” asked Kernan.
Perry then claimed ignorance and, tellingly, didn’t mention alcoholism this time around.
“I don’t know,” he said. “The fact is, we’ll leave that to the psychologists and the doctors to decide. … I don’t necessarily condone that lifestyle. I don’t condemn it either. We’re all children of God.”
Whatever Perry actually thinks, I can tell you his own Texas GOP has consistently condemned homosexuality, and, earlier this month, endorsed exactly such so-called “reparative therapy.”
I took it upon myself to compare the state party’s 2010, 2012 and 2014 platforms. I found minimal differences between the 2010 and 2012 entries under the heading: “Homosexuality.”
“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit,” reads the 2012 version. “Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”
At the 2014 Republican State Convention, held June 5 to 7 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, the party approved a consequential addendum. The draft language was first revealed by David Rauf of the San Antonio Express-News.
“We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle,” reads the new language. “No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”
I find it highly unlikely Perry doesn’t know his own state party’s position on reparative therapy — the practice of which has been roundly discredited by the medical community. Perry and his ilk are delusional. If anyone needs psychological help, it’s them.
Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.