Rick Perry: Being Gay Is Something You Battle, Like Alcoholism

Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a May appearance in New Orleans. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a May appearance in New Orleans. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s love affair with California just keeps getting better. Perry has won a degree of notoriety for his radio ads inviting Golden State businesses to relocate to the Lone Star State. And he’s been in California this week to headline a series of Republican fundraisers and spread the message that he’d like to get Silicon Valley’s Tesla Motors to pull up stakes and head to Texas.

Wednesday night, Perry appeared at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. During a 73-minute appearance in which he expounded on energy issues, fracking, climate change, government regulation, health care policy and abortion, moderator Greg Dalton asked Perry a question from the audience: “Do you believe homosexuals can be cured by prayer or counseling?” The question prompted a wave of laughter and some applause.

Then came the answer:

Perry: I don’t know, I don’t. I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a doctor, so …

Dalton: Is it a disorder?

Perry: I wrote a book called “On My Honor,” and I talked about people make choices in life, and whether or not you, whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. And I made the point of talking about alcoholism. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that. And I look at the homosexual issue the same way.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s David Baker reports that Perry’s comment “drew a murmur of disbelief.”

At that point, Dalton changed the subject with another question from the audience on whether Perry believed marijuana would be legalized in Texas (Perry said no, though he added it’s a matter for states, not the federal government, to decide. He added, “If you want to smoke weed and get high, go to Colorado.”)

So, to translate the perhaps untranslatable: Perry says he doesn’t know whether prayer or counseling can “cure” homosexuality. But being LGBT is like alcoholism, a disease, and you can just decide not to be sick. It’s good to have that clarified.

What Perry is saying here is just in keeping with the tenor of Texas Republican politics. As the Chronicle’s Baker notes, the state’s Republican Party last weekend adopted a platform that, among other things, rejects the idea of gay marriage and embraces “reparative therapy” for “patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle.”

Mainstream medicine and psychology have long since discarded the notion that homosexuality is a disorder or that it’s something that needs to be cured. But, as Perry said, he’s not a doctor or psychiatrist, so maybe the fact “restorative therapy” has been discredited and rejected is news to him. That being the case, maybe sometime soon someone will launch an ad campaign in Texas to educate the governor. We’ve heard that prejudices — unlike alcoholism and other diseases — can be cured with a little brain exercise.

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  • wonderingstevie

    Oh. It’s wrong now to say willpower trumps genetic coding.

    • OwenRay

      No, it’s wrong to equate homosexuality to a disease.

  • Kristy

    He is SOOOO wrong, and obviously knows NOTHING about Alcoholism as a disease. It has NOTHING to do with will power! Try using all your will power against diarrhea & see how well it works Mr. Perry

  • Chris OConnell

    Even if what he is saying is true (NOT), there is the following: if you have a predisposition to be an alcoholic, then alcohol will most likely have a destructive, negative effect on your life. If you have a predisposition to being gay, then DENYING that will most likely have a destructive, negative effect on your life. So even granting his comparison, the opposite conclusion makes sense. Oops.

  • Brian

    There is not a scientific question on whether homosexuality is caused by genetics. There are two sides. I urge everyone to be more tolerant of those with the minority view, especially when they (like Rick Perry) are only discussing it after being asked directly. Why condemn them for their beliefs? It’s not like he said “gay people make me uncomfortable” or “I hate gay people”. I’m not a biologist, but I’ve used my academic access to web of knowledge and other scientific journals to search “homosexuality gene*” a few times and again just now. Or even simply taking the first 10 results when I type those keywords in google scholar- by reading the abstracts I found that 3 of them find a correlation between homosexuality and genetics, and two of them fail to find a correlation between homosexuality and the marker being studied. The others have titles that suggest the lack of consensus I am referring to, such as the 2001 paper by Conrad et al. with 84 citations called “Constructing the “gay gene” in the news: optimism and skepticism in the U.S and British press”.

    • Brian

      Isn’t the real reason Rick Perry’s view is being rejected because of the fact that *most people* reject that the Bible is the inspired word of God? First I’ll say that I am a follower of Jesus, but I’ve never met Rick Perry so can’t pretend to speak for him. Study of the Bible shows that Jesus was and is equally (if not much more) troubled by sins of the heart (e.g. dishonest gain, spite i.e. to hate is equivalent to murder) as he is by homosexuality (he upheld the eternal truth of every jot and tittle of the Jewish law). The Torah identifies sodomy as sin. If you wonder how this can be reconciled to Mathew 7:1, it will help to understand the meaning of judgement in the Bible (see a Bible commentary): “judging assumes a divine prerogative; final judgement belongs to God alone, and those who seek to judge others now will answer then for usurping God’s position.” If and when the spirit and the written word (the Bible) lead me to tell a person that they are sinning -and this does not involve heckling gays, I have a gay friend who I love sincerely- if I am sitting in judgement over that person then I am the one sinning. I would only ever urge people to repent out of genuine love. Your creator really did intervene out of love for you 2000 years ago. God says [Ezekiel 36:26].

      • Ray Fischer

        I’ll see your religious argument and raise you a 1st amendment.

        • Brian

          OK, that’s a good point and the logical next step in the debate/discussion. So far I’ve just made the case that people (like me) who believe homosexuality is immoral are not evil or insane and they have a right to this view. Personally, I don’t feel it must be legislated on everyone. But if there is room for debate as I’ve suggested, then why shouldn’t it be decided by a democratic process as Perry suggested, rather than mandated or overturned by court justices? Also, just because a religious doctrine is aligned with a particular piece of legislation doesn’t mean it violates the 1st amendment. If it did, we’d have to throw out a lot of other laws that are also aligned with the Bible.

    • Ray Fischer

      It’s a strawman and false dichotomy argument to say that because ONE gene hasn’t been found that causes homosexuality then homosexuality isn’t genetic. It is probably an interaction among several genes.

      What is known is that homosexuality (at least in males) is an inheritable trait.

      • Brian

        That would be a bad argument. Good thing I didn’t make such a statement.

        • Ray Fischer

          Your statement that there is no scientific consensus is a false claim. Urging people to be more tolerant of bigotry is stupid

          • Brian

            Ray, the article that presents evidence is mainly about the Xm28 gene structure, and other article(s) fail to (statistically) replicate the same conclusion using tests of the same gene structure. The ability to replicate experiments is very important in building scientific consensus. Maybe today they have reached a stronger consensus, but my (possibly inadequate) research did not suggest it had. I wonder if you have read any scientific papers on this subject? If you continue making slanderous comments I won’t respond. I am only trying to see how fars the known facts lead on this question, not to win an argument. There is nothing bigoted about what I’ve said, please be reasonable and respectful.

  • Ray Fischer

    Being an ignorant bigot is something you embrace, like Rick Perry.

    • Brian

      Well, that’s not true.

    • Brian

      I accidentally voted this up lol

  • Orpick Aname

    Why does KQED allow such clumsy mockery in what is purported to be a news article? Perry may be an ignorant loon. But if he is, let readers decide that based on what he says and does.(Every time he opens his mouth more evidence seems to come out.) The last thing we need is for KQED to become KSFO on the other end of the political dial.

  • hcat

    Perry’s right. I’m a gay guy, I’ve been married to a fine lady for 28 years, I told her before we started dating regularly, and the road has not been more difficult than it is for a lot of straight guys.

    • Cat

      good to know you chose to be straight…. more power to you. i know plenty of homosexual males who are married and all of their children are homosexual as well. pity they are the last of his line

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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