Al Franken Grills DeVos For Supporting Gay Conversion Therapy

Al Franken Grills DeVos For Supporting Gay Conversion Therapy January 18, 2017

Senator Al Franken challenges Betsy DeVos, an anti-gay Christian extremist and Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee.

In a telling exchange, Senator Al Franken challenged President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, on her anti-gay Christian extremism, and reports that she and her conservative Christian family are supporters of gay conversion therapy.

Franken began:

Mrs. DeVos, your family has a long history of supporting anti-LGBT causes including donating millions of dollars to groups that push conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, you and your family have given over $10 million to Focus On the Family, an organization that currently states on its website that, ‘homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity.’

Mrs. DeVos, conversion therapy has been widely discredited and rejected for decades by every mainstream medical and mental health organization as neither medically nor ethically appropriate. It has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide, particularly in LGBT youth. In fact, many of the leaders and founders of conversion therapy, including both religious ministries and mental health professionals, have not only publicly renounced it but have issued formal apologies for their work and how harmful it has been to the individuals involved. Mr. Chairman, I would ask that this be included in the record.

Franken continued:

Mrs. DeVos, do you still believe in conversion therapy?

An obviously flustered and defensive DeVos tried to dodge the question and denied the charges:

Senator Franken, I’ve never believed in that. First of all, let me say I fully embrace equality and I believe in the innate value of every single human being and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination. So let’s start there and let me just say that your characterization of our contributions I don’t think accurately reflects those of my family. I would hope you wouldn’t include other family members beyond my core family.

Franken then demonstrated that DeVos was willing to lie:

Well, in terms of throwing numbers around, you said that student debt has increased by 1,000 percent.

DeVos answered:

980 percent in 8 years.

Franken said:

That’s just not so. It’s increased 118 percent in the past eight years. So, I’m just asking if you’re challenging my figures, I would ask that you get your figures straight about education policy and that’s why we want more questions. Because we want to know if this person that we are entrusting to be the secretary of education, if she has the breadth and depth of knowledge that we would expect from someone who has that important job.

Watch the exchange below:

As for the DeVos family’s well documented anti-gay activities, Politico reports:

… the DeVos family has a long history of supporting anti-gay causes — including donating hundreds of thousands to groups that push “conversion therapy” — raising questions about how, if at all, she would address discrimination against gay and transgender students.

Commenting on DeVos’ testimony, Dr. Eliza Byard, director of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), complained DeVos’ “dodged questions” concerning anti-bullying programs, gay-straight alliances and the rights of trans students:

While we are relieved to hear DeVos rejecting the dangerous and thoroughly discredited practice of conversion therapy her family has previously supported, it was chilling to hear DeVos dodge questions about whether she would keep essential protections for transgender students, and basically refer all other civil rights protections for students with disabilities, students of color, and religious minority students ’back to the states.’

Later on Facebook Franken went on to express his astonishment that DeVos apparently lacks familiarity with the most basic issues in education:

Ms. DeVos repeatedly refused to answer questions, let alone offer specifics. That was not what the American people needed to hear.

They deserved to see her demonstrate that she understands and can successfully address the profoundly difficult challenges ordinary families face every day when it comes to education: things like making sure their kids are prepared for the 21st century economy, addressing student loan debt, and ensuring kids feel safe in school.

Bottom line: Senator Al Franken is right – DeVos is not qualified to serve as Secretary of Education.

Senator Al Franken (Image via Screen Grab)
Senator Al Franken (Image via Screen Grab)
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