A new video from the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group takes aim at midterm candidates who refused to support bills banning anti-gay conversion therapy.
In a video shared with INTO, the Human Rights Campaign spotlighted eight candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives who either voted against legislation outlawing the discredited practice or abstained from voting.
These Congressional hopefuls include five Republicans running in California: Diane Harkey of the 49th Congressional District, Steve Knight of the 25th Congressional District, Rep. Doug La Malfa of the First Congressional District, Rep. David Valadao of the 21st Congressional District, and Mimi Walters of the 45th Congressional District.
Each of these politicians voted against Senate Bill 1172 during their time in the California State Legislature. That seven-year-old legislation banned sexual orientation change efforts from being performed on individuals under the age of 18.
Paul Cook of California’s 8th Congressional District—also mentioned in the HRC report—abstained from voting on the bill.
Despite conservative opposition, SB 1172 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. Its passage made California the first state to outlaw conversion therapy; since then, 13 additional states (and Washington, D.C.) have taken action to protect LGBTQ youth from the “gay cure” treatment.
Widely compared to torture, conversion therapy has been condemned by every leading U.S. medical association as harmful and ineffective.
Other conservatives included in HRC’s tally include Darin LaHood of Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, Jay Webber of New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, and Yvette Herrell of New Mexico’s Second Congressional District.
These candidates each voted against conversion therapy bills in their state. All three of those states banned the practice without their support.
A spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign called these votes “appalling.”
“It’s appalling that these politicians would vote against protecting LGBTQ youth from the incredibly dangerous and discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy,” HRC Senior National Press Secretary Stephen Peters told INTO. “No child should ever be subjected to this practice that amounts to nothing less than child abuse.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights claimed these revelations should be a dealbreaker for voters.
“Bills to protect vulnerable minors from the harms caused by conversion therapy have received broad bipartisan support,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter claimed in an email. “Any legislator who would support these harmful practices is endorsing a destructive form of bigotry that has no place in Congress.”
Although the Republican Party appeared to embrace conversion therapy in its 2016 platform, advocates noted that half the governors who have signed bills banning the treatment are conservatives.
The list of Republican politicians includes names like Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.
Earlier this year, Maine Gov. Paul LePage became the first governor to veto legislation prohibiting orientation change efforts. He is also a conservative.
INTO reached out to each of the Republican candidates spotlighted in HRC’s report ahead of its release. Of the nine U.S. House candidates singled out, not a single one responded to this publication’s request for comment.
Although these nine candidates are hardly the only conservatives with anti-LGBTQ records, HRC focused its attention on competitive races.
“It’s crucial that fair-minded voters turn out on election day and elect pro-equality leaders up and down the ballot who will stand up for our nation’s vulnerable youth and work to advance LGBTQ equality,” Peters said in an email.
Looking at just the California races, a last-minute surge could make the difference in several contests. Two of the races fall either within a three percentage point margin of error or very close to it: Harkey is trailing her Democratic opponent by 10 points, Knight leads by four, and Walters is down by seven points.
While Valadao is currently projected to win by 11, that could easily change in one week’s time. Advocates say it’s important to send a strong message in support of LGBTQ youth on Nov. 6.
“It’s always disappointing when a politician votes against protecting youth from conversion therapy,” said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, said in a statement. “The good news is that these bad votes are increasingly out of the mainstream compared to the thousands of bipartisan votes cast in support of protecting LGBTQ youth.”