White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined comment Monday on questions on President Obama’s position on widely discredited “ex-gay” reparative therapy aimed at changing gay individuals into being straight.
Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney said he hasn’t had any conversations with the president on reparative therapy — or whether Medicaid funding should support the practice — and deferred inquiries to the Department of Health & Human Services.
“I haven’t had any conversation with him and I think that I would steer you to HHS since it involves Medicaid funding,” Carney said. “I don’t really have any comment.”
Pressed further Monday on whether Obama could possibly support reparative therapy if he describes himself as a “fierce advocate” for LGBT Americans, Carney replied, “I haven’t spoken to him about it, so I don’t want to characterize his thoughts on this. The fact is the issue of Medicaid funding is best asked of HHS.”
The Minnesota-based clinic Bachmann & Associates, co-owned by Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, has received significant media attention after Truth Wins Out posted a report earlier this month revealing the clinic engages in reparative therapy.
In a subsequent interview with the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Marcus Bachmann, the spouse of Michele Bachmann and operator of the clinic, said the “ex-gay” practices are used “at the client’s discretion.”
Despite Marcus Bachmann’s assertion that ex-gay therapy is only offered to those who ask for it, the clinic has continued to receive criticism because it’s engaging in a discredited practice that could harm LGBT people.
Further, Bachmann & Associates has been shown to be the recipient of federal funds. According to NBC News, the clinic has been collecting annual Medicaid payments totaling more than $137,000 for the treatment of patients since 2005. These payments are in addition to $24,000 in federal and state funds that Bachmann & Associates received in recent years under a state grant to train its employees.
It’s unclear whether these federal and state funds are compensating the clinic for reparative therapy or if this money is reimbursing Bachmann & Associates for other practices.
Carney also dodged on whether the president would be open to issuing an executive order spelling out that federal funds won’t be used to discriminate against or harm LGBT Americans.
“I’m not going to negotiate on behalf of the president or venture a guess on what he may or may not be open to,” Carney said. “Again, on the specific issue of Medicaid funding, I’ll send you to HHS.”
In the wake of revelations about Bachmann & Associates, such a directive has been seen as a way for the administration to make clear that the U.S. government won’t subsidize “ex-gay” therapy.
Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said he thinks Carney would discover if he asks Obama about ex-gay therapy that the president doesn’t think being gay is a disease.
“I’m sure if and when he asks the president — he would and has been clear that he doesn’t think being gay is a mental illness,” Socarides said. “So federal funds should certainly not be used to ‘cure’ it.
Socarides reiterated reports that Bachmann & Associates participates in ex-gay therapy and receives federal funds are “another reason we need the executive order prohibiting federal funds being used to discriminate against LGBT Americans.”
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, also said the Obama administration “should make it clear that no federal funds will be used to subsidize reparative therapy.”
“Moreover, no federal funds should be given to any medical practice that engages in such therapy, even if the funds are allocated for different areas,” Besen added. “Those who offer such therapy are committing consumer fraud by charging clients for a service that does not work.”
A partial transcript of the exchange between the Blade and Carney follows:
Washington Blade: Bachmann & Associates, the Minnesota-based clinic co-owned by Michele Bachmann, has been receiving attention recently because it’s been revealed that it’s engaging in widely discredited reparative therapy aimed at turning gay people into being straight. Furthermore, the clinic has been shown to be the recipient of federal money. It received $137,000 in Medicaid funding since 2005.
What does the president think about ex-gay reparative therapy and should federal funds be used to support this practice?
Jay Carney: Chris, I haven’t had any conversation with him and I think that I would steer you to HHS since it involves Medicaid funding. I don’t really have any comment.
Blade: But it seems strange to me that you can’t say anything about it because our president has described himself as a “fierce advocate” for LGBT Americans. Why can’t you say anything about a practice that is —
Carney: … I haven’t spoken to him about it, so I don’t want to characterize his thoughts on this. The fact is the issue of Medicaid funding is best asked of HHS.
Blade: Just a follow up question. To spell out that this practice shouldn’t be subsidized by the federal government, would the president be open to issuing an executive order mandating that federal funds cannot be used to discriminate or harm LGBT Americans?
Carney: I’m not going to negotiate on behalf of the president or venture a guess on what he may or may not be open to. Again, on the specific issue of Medicaid funding, I’ll send you to HHS.