Trump’s Education Secretary flounders over donations to gay ‘cure’ therapy advocates

Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been challenged over her sizeable donations to anti-LGBT causes during her confirmation hearing.

Mrs DeVos, who married into the mega-rich family of Amway billionaire Dick DeVos , has been nominated as Education Secretary despite having no experience in education.

In her confirmation hearing this week, the prospective cabinet member faced questions about her prominent donations to the anti-gay marriage lobby.

She previously donated $200,000 in a successful bid to add an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Michigan ballot.

DeVos family organisations have also made large donations to anti-gay marriage causes – with more than $10 million sent Focus On the Family, a Christian group that advocates gay ‘cure’ therapy, as well as $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, and $100,000 to Florida4Marriage.

Senator Al Franken challenged her on the issue, asserting: “Your family has a long history of supporting anti-LGBT causes including donating millions of dollars to groups that push conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For example, you and your family have given over $10 million to Focus On the Family, an organization that currently states on its website that, ‘homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity’.

“Conversion therapy has been widely discredited and rejected for decades by every mainstream medical and mental health organization as neither medically nor ethically appropriate… it has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide, particularly in LGBT youth.

“In fact, many of the leaders and founders of conversion therapy, including both religious ministries and mental health professionals, have not only publicly renounced it but have issued formal apologies for their work and how harmful it has been to the individuals involved.”

He pushed: “Mrs. DeVos, do you still believe in conversion therapy?”

She responded: “Senator Franken, I’ve never believed in that… first of all, let me say I fully embrace equality and I believe in the innate value of every single human being and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination.

“Let’s start there and let me just say that your characterization of our contributions, I don’t think accurately reflects those of my family. I would hope you wouldn’t include other family members beyond my core family.”

Challenged on equality and non-discrimination, she said: ” I embrace equality, and I firmly believe in the intrinsic value of each individual, and that every student should have the assurance of a safe and discrimination-free place to become educated.

“I want to restate those principles of values for me. Let me comment to the things you have referred to again and suggested that you may be confusing some other family members in some of those contributions…  as a mom, I just can’t imagine having a child that would feel discriminated against for any reason, and I would want my child in a safe environment.”

Despite her history of donations to anti-LGBT causes, Mrs DeVos received support from the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans.

They insisted: “Ms. DeVos has been maligned in the media as an “anti-gay” activist—allegations directly stemming from her personal views on marriage and contributions from her family foundation. Far from an ‘anti-gay’ firebreather, Ms. DeVos actually has a history of working with and supporting gay individuals.”

The group added: “Ms. DeVos should be commended for proving that differences of opinion related to marriage equality do not equate to anti-gay animus. Log Cabin Republicans stands in support of her nomination for Secretary of Education, and encourages her swift confirmation.”