It’s actually a little amazing that stuff like this doesn’t happen more often.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, speaking in San Francisco on Wednesday night, said the U.S. would better serve its diverse population by letting the states handle many economic and social policies, a point he perhaps inadvertently drove home when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism.
Addressing the Commonwealth Club of California, Perry argued the federal government should give up much of its policy-making power, letting states chart their own courses on issues ranging from business subsidies to abortion. He joked about his frequent habit of luring California companies to Texas and called the competition between the two states healthy for both, as well as the nation.
But as Perry eyes another possible presidential run, some of his comments illustrated the wide gulf that exists between blue California and red Texas – and within the nation as a whole.
The Texas Republican Party this month adopted a platform supporting access to “reparative therapy” for gays and lesbians, a widely discredited process intended to change sexual orientation. In response to an audience question about it Wednesday night, Perry said he did not know whether the therapy worked.
Commonwealth Club interviewer Greg Dalton then asked him whether he believes homosexuality is a disorder.
“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “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 the same way.”
The large crowd gathered at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel on Nob Hill included many Perry supporters. But the comment still drew a murmur of disbelief.
When you invite an ignorant fool like Rick Perry to speak to your group, you should not be surprised when he says something stupid. Reaction was swift.
“It’s not accurate and it’s not a reasonable conclusion that the world of medicine and psychiatry would endorse,” said Dr. John Oldham, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. Oldham also is chief of staff and senior vice president at the Menninger Clinic.
“Alcoholism is a form of addiction, which is an illness,” Oldham said. “Sexual orientation is not an illness.”
Defining homosexuality that way is simply outdated, he said.
“Many decades ago, in the diagnostic manual it was listed as a condition thought to be an illness,” Oldham said. “We’ve learned since that that was wrong.”
The governor’s comment came after he was asked about the Texas Republican Party’s new platform that supports “reparative therapy” for gays and lesbians, a process aimed at changing sexual orientation. Pressed to say whether he thought homosexuality could be cured by prayer or counseling, Perry responded, “I don’t know. I’m not a psychiatrist; I’m not a doctor.”
The idea of changing someone’s sexual orientation throughtherapy has been “entirely debunked,” Oldham said. “Reparative therapy is not a legitimate therapy and, in fact, it can be destructive.”
To seek therapy to change one’s sexual orientation, he said, “would be like saying, ‘I would really like to get reparative therapy because I don’t like being short.’ ”
The Republican Party of Rick Perry and Greg Abbott doesn’t care what a bunch of pointy-headed scientists think. They have their own truth, and that’s all they need.