Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who will forever be known as the “oops” Republican presidential contender, defended his most recent verbal faux pas on CNBC’s Sqwuak Box Monday morning. During a visit to San Francisco last Wednesday, Perry compared homosexuality to alcoholism and suggested that even if a gay person was compelled or genetically coded towards homosexuality, it was still a choice, a decision, to follow that “lifestyle” or not. The Texas Republican Party recently included so-called “reparative therapy” in its party platform.
Sqwuak Box host Joe Kernan called the remarks “offensive” and worried that such positions would keep the Republican Party from winning elections.
“I have a really high bar for what I would take offense to, but that would exceed the bar for me on being an offensive comment,” said the conservative Kernan. “I don’t think gay marriage leads to cirrhosis of the liver or domestic violence or DWIs. I don’t see how that’s similar.”
“I understand people have different opinions about that,” Perry said, who said he respected what individual states, including California and New York, decided. But the issue of marriage rights should not be controlled by Washington, Perry said, which, though not discussed on this CNBC show, begs the question about why he supported the Federal Marriage Amendment when running for the Republican nomination for president in 2011.
Kernan glossed over that contradiction to get to the concept of conversion terapy. “But in terms of changing the behavior of someone,” Kernan said, “you wouldn’t think that someone who’s heterosexual, that you couldn’t change them into a homosexual, or someone who is homosexual, you don’t think that there should be therapy to try to change them into a heterosexual?”
“You know, I don’t know,” said Perry. “The fact is, we’ll leave that to the psychologists and the doctors.”
“The psychologists, they’ve already weighed in,” Kernan retorted. “They’ve dismissed the idea that sexual orientation is a mental disorder.”
Interestingly, the day after Father’s Day, Kernan asked Perry if he would agree that there are good gay parents with kids. “It just seems the Republican Party will forever be behind the curve on issues like this, and it doesn’t help the party win elections.”
“I don’t necessarily condone that lifestyle. I don’t condemn it, either,” Perry said. “We’re all children of God. The fact is, people will decide where they want to live. If Washington will respect the Tenth Amendment [states rights] I think that will make America substantially happier.”
Another comment that Kernan skipped over but might also get further scrutiny if and when Perry decides to run again for his party’s nomination is the idea that people should be allowed to decide where and “how they want to live and under what rules and regulations.” While true in principle, it does not take into account that many people cannot afford to move where they would like to live, and that in 29 states, gay people can be fired without legal recourse or otherwise legally discriminated against based on sexual orientation. In 32 states, anti-trans discrimination in the workplace is legal. To Perry, apparently, this is not a matter of social and economic justice but a bad lifestyle choice.