FORT WORTH, Texas - The Texas Republican Party now endorses so-called "reparative therapy" for gays, under a new platform given final approval at its annual convention Saturday.
The new anti-gay language never came up for debate before roughly 7,000 delegates ratified a Texas GOP platform that tea party groups succeeded in pushing further to the right, including winning a harder line on immigration.
One influential tea party group called Texas Eagle Forum had urged the party to support psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight. It comes after Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last fall signed a law banning such therapies on minors, and California has a similar law.
The Fort Worth Convention Hall cheered when party leaders announced that Christie finished a distant 11th in a 2016 presidential straw poll.
"There's a very, very small group of people who want to keep the party in the past. We were here today to try to pull the party into the future," said Rudy Oeftering, vice president of the gay conservative group Metroplex Republicans. "The only way the party can go into the future is to start listening to young people, to start listening to people who have gay family members."
- Pennsylvania same-sex marriage ban overturned by judge
- Three gay Republicans trying to make election history
Oeftering and allies had lined up to speak against the therapy language that had been added earlier this week. But they never got a chance to address delegates, because a parliamentary motion to approve the full platform was called first.
Under the new plank, the Texas GOP recognizes "the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."
The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned such counseling, which generally try to change a person's sexual orientation or to lessen their interest in engaging in same-sex sexual activity. The groups say the practice should not be used on minors because of the danger of serious psychological harm.
"The platform reflects what the people in the Republican Party have asked for, and that should be no surprise: family values, protection of marriage between one man and one woman and everything that goes along with that," said Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative group Texas Values and a convention delegate.
Gay conservatives did come away with a rare victory at the convention: Winning the removal of decades-old language in the state party platform that states, "homosexuality tears at the fabric of society."