Gov. Rick Perry gives a speech during the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday, June, 5, 2014.
Rex C. Curry / AP Photo

Texas’ Perry on reparative therapy: ‘I don’t know’

The Texas Republican Party recently endorsed the notion that “reparative therapy” is an effective way to turn gay people straight through counseling. The state GOP endorsed its “legitimacy and efficacy” for “patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.” (As best as I can tell, proponents do not believe that straight people can also be turned gay through therapy.)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who recently equated homosexuality with alcoholism, was asked on CNBC this morning for his take.
Earlier this month, the Texas Republican Party adopted at its convention a policy endorsing “reparative therapy” for gays and lesbians who seek to change sexual orientation through counseling.
Asked if he believes in that, Perry said in a “Squawk Box” interview: “I don’t know. We’ll leave that to the psychologists and the doctors.”
The obvious response is that we’ve already left this to medical professionals and independent experts in the field. Not surprisingly, the consensus is that “reparative therapy” is a cruel and dangerous joke.
What’s more, note that while Perry says “we’ll leave that to the psychologists and the doctors,” the membership of the Texas Republican Party apparently believes the opposite, having already expressed support for the “legitimacy and efficacy” of this discredited quackery, regardless of what “the psychologists and the doctors” believe.
But there’s something else about the Republican governor’s response that stood out for me. He’s not an expert, Perry seemed to suggest, so he’s taking a pass.
Where I have heard that before?
Hey, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), the climate crisis is threatening your state. What do you intend to do about it? “I’m not a scientist,” Scott replies.
Hey, House Speaker John Boehner (R), you keep complaining about President Obama’s policy in Iraq. Does that mean you support air strikes? “I don’t know enough of the details about the airstrikes to comment,” Boehner replies.
Hey, Sen. Marco Rubio (R), much of your party is committed to creationism. How old do you think the planet is? “I’m not a scientist, man,” Rubio replies.
Hey, House Speaker John Boehner (R), much of your caucus is dominated by climate deniers. Isn’t that cause for alarm? “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” Boehner replies.
Hey, Texas Gov. Ricky Perry (R), your state party just endorsed reparative therapy. Do you think this ridiculousness makes sense? “I don’t know. We’ll leave that to the psychologists and the doctors,” Perry replies.
It never occurred to me the “I’m not a scientist” meme could have such broad applicability.
But let’s not stop there. The truth is, if conservative policymakers were serious about this approach, and were prepared to base policy decisions on the guidance of actual experts, their professed ignorance wouldn’t be too big a problem. There’s no shame in someone saying, “I don’t know,” so long as they’re prepared to do the right thing after listening to the guidance of those who do know.
But as David Brooks noted a couple of years ago, many in today’s Republican Party “do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities,” making the “I’m not a scientist” meme far more problematic.