The Texas Republican Party’s new platform may endorse psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay people straight, in a move partly aimed at rebuking laws in California and New Jersey that ban "reparative therapy" — also known as conversion therapy — for minors.
A push to include the new language in the platform survived a key vote late Thursday in Fort Worth at the Texas Republican Convention while, across the street, tea party star Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, fired up attendees at a rally to defend marriage as between a man and a woman.
Under the proposed new plank, the Texas GOP will "recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."
The full convention of nearly 10,000 delegates from across Texas will take a final vote on the platform on Saturday.
Gay conservatives in Texas could still emerge with a rare victory on a separate issue: removing decades-old platform language that states, "Homosexuality tears at the fabric of society." Stripping that phrasing survived a sometimes tense challenge from hard-liners who not only wanted to preserve it but also wanted to replace "homosexuality" with "sexual sins."
"I really beg my social conservative colleagues to let this issue go," said Rudy Oeftering, a Dallas businessman and vice president of the gay Republican group Metroplex Republicans. "It's your opinion. It's your belief — but it's my life."
That issue also faces a full vote Saturday.
The Texas Republican Convention has long been unfriendly territory for gays, even conservative ones. For years, the party has refused to let gay GOP organizations rent booths in the convention hall.
The therapy language was inserted at the urging of Cathie Adams of Dallas, leader of the influential tea party group Texas Eagle Forum and a onetime chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party.
Adams, whose group backed tea party outsiders who dominated Texas Republican primary races this year, said she simply promoted language proposed by a man who she says was helped by such therapy.
"He knows what he's talking about. He is one of those who has benefited," Adams said. "I think the majority of Texans feel that way too. It's not like this is mandatory. This is only a voluntary program."
In August, New Jersey became the second U.S. state to bar licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight. The bill was signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate who opposes same-sex marriage but has said that he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality is not a sin.
Judges on a federal appeals court also upheld a similar ban in California last fall, saying that trying to change a minor's sexual orientation through intense therapy appeared dangerous. The California Legislature has cited reports, experts and anecdotes involving suicides, substance abuse and other behavior by young recipients of the therapy.
Sexual-orientation change efforts have also been panned as detrimental by medical and mental health associations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association, which instead "call on their members to respect a person’s right to self-determination."
Cruz ducked a question about his state party's platform on gays, saying he would leave it up to the "grass roots at the convention."
Republican delegate Elizabeth Hunter, 20, said she didn't see any reason for removing language that describes being gay as tearing at the fabric of society.
"I don't see anybody leaving the Republican Party because of that language," she said. "I think it would actually encourage someone to join when they see that the Republican Party takes a strong stand rather than standing in the middle."
Al Jazeera and the Associated Press