Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ken Blackwell, Candidate For RNC Chair: Gays Make A "Choice" And Can "Change"

Ken Blackwell is a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, and he has the proper conservative alliances: the Family Research Council, the Club for Growth, the National Taxpayers Union and the National Rifle Association.

To top it off, he's a homophobe. Bingo! He's a natural for the position.

In a July 2006 interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Blackwell, who lost the 2006 Ohio gubernatorial election, compared gays to arsonists and kleptomaniacs. But there's hope! They can "change":

"I think homosexuality is a lifestyle, it's a choice, and that lifestyle can be changed... I think it is a transgression against God's law, God's will... The reality is, again...that I think we make choices all the time. And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one's genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think that they can be changed? Yes."

In a subsequent interview with radio host and blogger Michelangelo Signorile in September 2008 at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Blackwell elaborated on how gays can "change":

Blackwell : ...What I said is that, in that regard, you can choose, people choose to be who they are, as they choose to break civil law and God's law...I think you can choose not to be homosexual...

Signorile: Did you choose to be heterosexual? Did you wake up one day and say I want to be heterosexual?

Blackwell: The answer is that I've never had to make the choice because I've never had the urge to be other than a heterosexual, but if in fact I had the urge to be something else I could have in fact suppressed that urge.

Signorile exposes the contradiction in the right wing religious view of gay sexual identity: Straights don't decide to be straight, yet gays decide to be gay. Genetics or environmental influences can simply be brushed aside.

Why this insistence on the part of right wingers that being gay is a "choice"? That allows them to blame gays for their "choice" and insist that they can be "cured." Thus we get inane programs like "Celebrate Recovery" in the Saddleback Church of Pastor Rick Warren (who is to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20th. I was glad to learn, though, that the openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson was also chosen to deliver an invocation at an inaugural event). Such a program has the potential to lead to self-hatred and confusion, as one who recovered from "Celebrate Recovery" wrote in Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish.

If someone told me that I "decided" to be straight and through therapy, willpower and prayer, could become gay or at least suppress my heterosexuality, I would take that person to be a fool or a madman. Yet that's the type of transformational advice given to gays by Ken Blackwell, who knows that had he had the gay "urge," he could have willed himself out of it. We're supposed to listen to all this quackery with a straight face.

Another candidate for the RNC chair, Chip Saltsman, recently distributed a racist Obama parody, "Barack The Magic Negro" (Blackwell dismissed the negative response as "hypersensitivity"). Now we have Blackwell advising gays on "changing" their "transgressive" behavior. What does it say about the Republican party that these are two of the candidates for chairman of their national committee? Is this the way the Republicans intend to recover from their losses and reach out to national constituencies? 

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