June 10--During their biennial convention, delegates for the Texas Republican Party agreed to change the wording on one of their platforms, calling for the recognition of the benefits of conversion therapy.
But local Republican officials in Ector County who attended the event said the meeting was much more than that; adding immigration and the discussion of who will run for president in 2016 was also a much discussed topic.
Delegates for the Republican Party approved the platform recognizing the "legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."
"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," Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative group Texas Values and a convention delegate said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Odessan Paula Waldrop was not aware of the Texas Republican Party adopting wording in their platform approving conversion therapy, but she said she is against the idea of implementing the practice in the state.
Waldrop, who is the president for the Odessa chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said the wording adopted during the Republican convention over the weekend in Fort Worth was eventually going to damage its outreach to voters.
"I believe it will damage their entire party," Waldrop said. "It's just a matter of time before we see it."
Though she does not know anyone who has undergone conversion therapy, Waldrop said the idea of changing someone's nature was wrong; and potentially damaging to a person's mindset.
"I think it only creates additional problems and issues with anyone who is questioning their sexuality and in my opinion that is striking at the very fiber of our society; by trying to convince people they are not correct or right in being who they are," Waldrop said.
One of those present at the convention was District 81 State Representative-elect Brooks Landgraf, who said the purpose of the immigration platform was to make sure Texas stayed competitive while also assuring people obeyed the laws at the state and national level.
Landgraf said he did not have enough information about conversion therapy to have an opinion on it; and did not want to do so without more knowledge of the practice.
Conversion therapy is a range of treatments that aim to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The practice is controversial and has been made illegal for use with minors in California and New Jersey.
Overall, Landgraf said he believed highlighting the immigration and conversion therapy platforms would not hurt the GOP's image
"I think one of the purposes of these conventions is if there are issues that are important to some people, it gives them an opportunity to put them on the map and we can have a discussion," Landgraf said. "There's nothing wrong with talking about it."
In addition to the conversion therapy discussion; delegates at the convention also took a turn on their immigration policy.
During the convention, the state's more than 8,000 delegates did not call for a guest-worker program and instead voted for ending in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and prohibiting sanctuary cities -- municipalities that do not enforce immigration laws.
The newly adopted platform also mentions creating a "visa classification system for non-specialty industries" that have demonstrated labor shortages, and would only allow such visas when the "borders are verifiably secure" and the use of the worker verification system E-Verify is "fully enforced," according to a report from the Texas Tribune.
Ector County Republican Chairwoman Tisha Crow said while the national press has highlighted the changes in the party's plank, she said the decision was made after much debate and hearing from people with businesses on the border.
Crow talked more about the importance of immigration reform than the conversion therapy platform.
"They just want it where people have to do it (immigrate) the legal way," Crow, who was at the convention, said. "Some people were saying 'Why should others jump in front of my family and get what they want while we are waiting to do it through the legal process?' "
At the convention, Crow said, delegates also had a chance for Texas Republicans to hear from Republican leaders such as outgoing Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky State Senator Rand Paul -- all of whom are mulling a run at the White House in 2016.
"Perry probably gave the best speech he has given in a long time, and Ted Cruz is a rock star," Crow said. "He comes out on stage and the reaction ... you would thought it was a concert."
Contact Nathaniel Miller on twitter at @OAgovernment, on Facebook at OA Nathaniel Miller or call 432-333-7769
(c)2014 Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: West Texas reaction mixed about GOP platform chances
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