A new book called Romney’s Gay America: Mormon Leaders, Same-Sex Rights — Bridging the Gap is based on a two-day series that ran in 2011 in 12 newspapers of the San Francisco Bay Area. The tome explores how Mormons have treated homosexuality in the past, how they treat it now, and what all this will mean for gay rights in the future.
In 2002, Michelle Beaver broke a story about how torturous experiments were conducted on gay Mormons at Brigham Young University in the 1970’s. She covers this event extensively in her book and offers solutions for how Mormons can heal this dark past.
Below is an excerpt from the book on this subject.
Still mired in times of bobby socks and poodle skirts gone by, in the late 1970’s, Brigham Young University’s psychology department unleashed experiments that its leaders hoped would lead to a “cure” for being gay. The skeleton in the closet of Brigham Young University: a disciplined and systematic program of painful electric shock therapy of gay students. This was part of a 1976 psychology experiment to eradicate homosexuality. For John Cameron, a patient in the study, the experience was so excruciating and humiliating that it haunts him to this day. Cameron, 60, now has a PhD and is head of acting in the drama department at the University of Iowa. He was raised Mormon but left the church 30 years ago. He is still gay.
Before the aversion therapy, Cameron and 16 other men who wanted to be straight signed papers informing them that damage to tissue or organs may occur, they would be looking at sensitive materials (pornographic photos) that may be contrary to their values, and that BYU could not be held responsible for damage. A plethysmograph, a measurement instrument similar to a blood pressure cuff, was attached to each of the men’s genitalia. If they became aroused by gay photos, their bodies would be jolted by electrodes. According to the dissertation, it was well known among the researchers that the electric shocks were anywhere from uncomfortable to excruciating. Indeed, this was nothing like today’s cosmetic laser therapies that produce a little pinch. The patients knew the treatments would be painful. But they didn’t know they’d be ineffective.
“For a year I thought [the electroshock] had some effect—I convinced myself that such was the case,” Cameron said. “But it didn’t change anything except increase my self-loathing. I didn’t know the ramifications of the experiment until years later.”
The controversial – and timely – new book predicts what a Mitt Romney presidency would mean for gay rights, offers solutions for how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could better deal with homosexuality and advises that non-Mormons should accept Mormons.
According to Mitt Romney’s political page: “The values that Mitt Romney learned in his home have enriched his life immeasurably. With his parents’ example before him, he married, had five sons, and now basks in the joy of eighteen grandchildren.
“Marriage is more than a personally rewarding social custom. It is also critical for the well-being of a civilization. That is why it is so important to preserve traditional marriage – the joining together of one man and one woman. As president, Mitt will not only appoint an Attorney General who will defend the Defense of Marriage Act – a bipartisan law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton – but he will also champion a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.”
The Romney campaign also conveys: “Mitt Romney is pro-life. He believes it speaks well of the country that almost all Americans recognize that abortion is a problem. And in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America.
“Mitt believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view. But while the nation remains so divided, he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade – a case of blatant judicial activism that took a decision that should be left to the people and placed it in the hands of unelected judges. With Roe overturned, states will be empowered through the democratic process to determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.
“Mitt supports the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. As president, he will end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood. He will protect the right of health care workers to follow their conscience in their work. And he will nominate judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the law.”
Regarding the right to bear arms: “Like the majority of Americans, Mitt does not believe that the United States needs additional laws that restrict the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He believes in the safe and responsible ownership and use of firearms and the right to lawfully manufacture and sell firearms and ammunition. He also recognizes the extraordinary number of jobs and other economic benefits that are produced by hunting, recreational shooting, and the firearms and ammunition industry, not the least of which is to fund wildlife and habitat conservation.”
Romney’s Gay America: Mormon Leaders, Same-Sex Rights — Bridging the Gap delves into what a Mitt Romney presidency might look like for the American people. Available here.