Republican Chrys Kefalas outlines just how extreme Gov. Mike Pence is on LGBT rights in an excellent column in the Washington Post:
During his public career, Pence has been an outspoken opponent of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. In Congress, he opposed efforts to encourage foreign governments to decriminalize homosexuality and sought to block the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. As a governor, he stood against not only marriage equality, but civil unions as well. He also opposed a law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace and signed one opening the door to wide-ranging discrimination against these residents of his own state under the guise of religious liberty.
On their own, such actions would signal that Pence would work to reverse the progress that has been made and stand in the way of efforts to advance the equal dignity and opportunity of all Americans, efforts which so many other Republicans fully support. But it is his past support for, and failure to repudiate, the heinous practice of conversion, or reparative, “therapy” that raises an even more disturbing concern: Pence doesn’t just seem to disagree with advocates for equal rights on issues of law. His record suggests that he personally believes LGBT people are abnormal and unworthy of the equal protection of the law.
As a candidate for Congress, Pence went so far as to endorse a proposal to divert money from a program to help those with HIV/AIDS to organizations “which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Bravely, Kefalas explains why he knows how bad conversion “therapy” can be:
For almost nine months before my 30th birthday, I had the relationships that I most valued questioned and my life demeaned by the use of techniques, including shock therapy, with no basis in science or medicine.
Kefalas is not some liberal bringing the news. Beyond working in the Ehrlich administration and for the National Association of Manufacturers, he just finished a highly credible, if unsuccessful, bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. In his own words, he supports the “conservative principles that make America exceptional: free enterprise, personal freedom, equal opportunity and fiscal responsibility.”
Indeed, Chrys is typically American is so many ways. Being gay is a normal, integrated part of his life. On an average Facebook day, Chrys is likely to tout his family’s restaurant, his pride in his Greek heritage (My Big Fat Greek Wedding has nothing on Chrys) and what’s going on at work. And yes, he may well mention the guy he loves too. Why any of this is a threat to America escapes a fast growing majority of Americans.
Republicans need to listen to this guy if they want any hope of saving their party. From a purely practical political perspective, Pence is way behind the curve. A majority of Americans now support marriage equality. For that matter, a majority of young Republicans support marriage equality. Never mind conversion therapy, the “go ahead an hate your neighbor” agenda just doesn’t work anymore.
More importantly, any effort to reconstruct a new positive and moral agenda from the wreckage that is the formerly Grand Old Party will require a focus on freedom. Accepting that government should not legislate against LGBT Americans would be a good start.