Al Franken (D), once a Saturday Night Live cast member now Minnesota senator, was not doing a bit at Betsy DeVos’ (R) confirmation hearing on Tuesday when he asked her about her views on conversion therapy.
DeVos is a supporter of charter schools and voucher programs which would allow businesses to receive a tax credit when they donate to non-profits that assist families in taking their children out of public schools.
The Republican is also known for donating millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups such as Focus on the Family and The Family Research Council.
Franken took her anti-LGBT philanthropy into account at the hearing on Tuesday, putting focus on Devos’ thoughts about conversion therapy.
“Mrs. DeVos, 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,” Franken said.
“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.’”
“Mrs. DeVos, 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. Mr. Chairman, I would ask that this be included in the record.”
“Mrs. DeVos, do you still believe in conversion therapy?” he asked.
“Senator Franken,” DeVos responded. “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. ‘
So let’s start there and let me just say that your characterization of 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.”
You can watch Sen. Franken’s exchange with Betsy DeVos below, starting at mark 4:10.