Congressional Democrats are throwing their support behind a bill that would end the practice of conversion therapy nationwide. Supporters say the treatment can change your sexual orientation if work really hard at it. Opponents, and there are many, say the therapy amounts to torture and does irreparable harm to someone who is subjected to it. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat who represents much of LA’s beach communities and Westside authored legislation here in California that became the first state in the nation to ban statewide conversion therapy. He’s now the man behind this bill in Congress. Rep. Lieu has also been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and his administration.
KCRW spoke with Rep. Lieu about the bill and his opposition to President Trump.
KCRW: Getting that conversion therapy bill through in Sacramento is one thing but GOP controlled Washington is another. Are there enough Republicans do you think you can persuade to go along with this?
Rep. Ted Lieu: There might be. I’m very pleased, we already have seventy democratic co-sponsors of this legislation and we’re working hard to try to secure some republicans as well and every year that passes, more and more people understand that being gay is not a condition, it is in fact perfect.
KCRW: Have you tried this before in the Congress?
TL: We tried it last term, it was a little bit late when we introduced it, so we’re introducing this early this year to try to get the full two year cycle to get it through.
KCRW: What’s your prognosis? Hopeful?
TL: Its hopeful, but honestly we don’t know what the Trump administration thinks of this yet. We know that Mike Pence originally came out in support of conversion therapy, he has since walked back his comments so we’re not sure exactly what the administration thinks about this issue.
KCRW: This is happening in the middle of budget talks in Washington, which up until yesterday had been threatened by the White House insistence on funding on a US-Mexico border wall. Will that wall get built and who’s going to pay for it if it does?
TL: The wall will not get built if President Trump can’t get funding during his honeymoon period in the first 100 days to build the wall, I don’t see how he ever gets funding for his stupid border wall proposal and its not just Democrats who oppose it, you have a number of Republicans in border states who also oppose it.
KCRW: You have been very outspoken about the Trump administration and the president, and you do not hold back when you talk about Trump himself, especially on Twitter. And I’m going to read to you a couple of you recent tweets, and actually you just said something that is similar to one of your tweets. You say, “Dear President Donald Trump, you don’t actually get to decide if your stupid wall gets built. Congress has power of the purse, get it?” You also use president in quotations, as if he were not really president or an illegitimate president. What do you mean by that?
TL: Donald Trump is the first president to have been in violation of the Constitution the second he finished his oath of office, because of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which says you can’t accept foreign payments or gifts. He has all of these businesses all over the world, and he is getting foreign payments and gifts. So that is one way I’m trying to highlight the fact that he is in violation of the Constitution, and he can clear up his illegitimacy by divesting his holdings and putting them into a blind trust. He refuses to do so.
KCRW: You also called him “truly an evil man.” Do you really think he’s evil or is that just Twitter talk?
TL: He wants to wreck Obamacare, and hurt tens of millions of people who may be getting cancer treatment. So that he could then, in his words “force the democrats to go bargain with him on Obamcare.” That’s evil.
KCRW: Do you think that even in the age of Trump, where decorum seems to be taking many hits these days, that maybe there is a better way to communicate the message or are you standing firm and this is how you are going to address him and his administration?
TL: Michelle Obama had a beautiful line, and it was, “when they go low we go high.” And I thought about that a lot. We also lost the election, the Democrats did. So I’ve decided that when that they go low, we’re going to fight back. And as long as the president doesn’t change his bizarre and stupid tweets, I am going to highlight them on Twitter. And I’m going to use the same language he uses.
KCRW: What do you say to Trump supporters who feel like the president does have their back. We have recent polling from myriad organizations that say that Trump people who voted for the president are happy, and wouldn’t do anything differently today.
TL: So a year and a half from now, people will know whether they have a job, whether there health care is better or worse. Democrats will take back the House in the year and a half, and we don’t do it by convincing hardcore Trump supporters to not support President Trump, we just have to persuade everybody else. And that is a lot of people that are going to vote against the president in the year and a half.