With apologies to Ricky Ricardo, Rick Perry -- you've got some 'splainin' to do.
When asked at a news conference in San Francisco (of all places) Wednesday night whether he thought homosexuality was a disorder, this is how the Texas governor responded:
"I don’t know, I don’t. I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a doctor... I wrote a book called 'On My Honor' and I talked about that people make choices in life and, um, 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."
Whew, I sure am glad he clarified that he's not a doctor. There was reportedly an audible gasp in the audience after he made his proclamation. I myself also gasped, albeit inwardly, when I read the story.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 14, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Credit: Getty Images)
Did the governor of the second largest state in this country really equate homosexuality with alcoholism? Did he really suggest that gay people should simply refrain from homosexual activity, the same way an alcoholic should not drink?
Seems like Perry is saying gay people just need to learn not to "engage" in their "lifestyle." Here's what he wrote in his 2008 book "On My Honor" about homosexuality and alcoholism:
"Even if (homosexuality) were (a genetic predisposition), this does not mean we are ultimately not responsible for the for the active choices we make. Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol, once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender."
Huh? Rick Perry managed to insult gays and alcoholics in one sentence. What an achievement! As a recovering alcoholic -- heck, as a human being -- I found his comments uninformed, insulting and dangerous.
A bit of background: after a nearly twenty-year struggle, I gave up alcohol and other intoxicants more than seven years ago. Although I didn't start out as a crusader, I became one. When not working at TheBlaze, I travel around the country sharing my story. In my speeches, I try to educate people about the dangers of addiction, the cost to society and the power of recovery.
As a recovery advocate, I tell people that addiction is not curable, but it is treatable -- that it's a flaw in chemistry, not in character. Was Rick Perry suggesting alcoholism and homosexuality are both flaws that need fixing? Was he suggesting that homosexuality is a disease?
Last time I checked, it wasn't.
Alcoholism, on the other hand is and was characterized as such by the American Medical Association more than 60 years ago. With alcoholism, you can reach a maintenance level of stability. Many people can and do recover. In fact, more than 23 million Americans identify themselves as being in recovery from some form of addiction.
Perry compares this to homosexuality, which he considers to be a moral failing, but neither alcoholism nor homosexuality would qualify under this label. His comments are insulting to people in recovery by suggesting that their problem boils down to simply making poor choices. And they're insulting to gay people because homosexuality is neither a choice, nor a malady, nor a disease.
As for calling homosexuality an "issue," does he mean it in the same way that immigration is an issue or global warming is an issue -- something that can be legislated?
Gov. Rick Perry (Getty Images)
Rick Perry is entitled to say whatever he wants. It is a free country and his freedom of speech is protected, as is mine. It will be interesting to see if he backtracks -- or even responds at all. If he does, I wonder what his justification will be, if any.
I have interviewed Perry more than once during my 23 years in news and always found him to be pleasant, direct and willing to answer any question thoughtfully and, presumably, honestly. I sat next to him at a dinner in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago and he was a charming conversationalist who took a keen interest in hearing about my struggle with alcoholism.
If someone from his camp called me for advice, I’d head down there with some experts in the field to try and educate him. He wouldn’t have to agree with what he heard, of course, but he’d have more knowledge.
I wonder what effect his comments may have on a possible 2016 presidential run. Was this the nail in the coffin? And what about the impact it could have on the Texas GOP, which just a few days ago adopted a platform embracing so-called "conversion therapy," efforts to turn gays and lesbians straight through prayer and counseling.
Being told you can be "cured" of your homosexuality is like someone telling me I can be "cured" of my disease or that I need to be converted from a "bad alcoholic" to a "good person."
I, and so many others, no doubt, have lots of questions for Perry. But if I had the chance to interview him tonight, I'm not sure he'd want or be able to answer them.
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