It’s not unusual for big companies to donate funds to politicians on both sides of the aisle, but for a company that gets credit for being LGBTQ-friendly, it feels especially sickening to see them give thousands of dollars to politicians who actively voted against bans on conversion therapy.
Specifically, these politicians are: Representative Mimi Walters (R-CA) who received $7,000 in campaign donations, and Representative Darin LaHood who received $2,000.
And their votes matter. For example, in 2012, Walters voted against a bill that would ban conversion therapy in her state. In 2015, LaHood (while in the state senate) voted against a conversion therapy ban. Ultimately, both bills did pass, making California and Illinois two of the handful of states which ban the practice.
Don’t underestimate how harmful conversion therapy is. More than ten professional organizations, including The American Psychological Association (APA) and The American Medical Association (AMA), actively denounce it.
And conversion therapy isn’t just unpleasant while you’re stuck there. In fact, it can have long-term (and possibly fatal) impacts. LGBTQ youth who undergo conversion therapy are 8.9 times as likely to be suicidal, three times as likely to use illegal drugs, and 5.9 times as likely to be depressed, as reported by the APA. No data exists that suggests conversion therapy is ultimately beneficial for or “cures” queer youth.
Conversion therapy bans (or lack thereof) are also a reminder that LGBTQ rights have not been won in a day. We might have same-sex marriage recognized in every state, but that doesn’t mean queer or questioning youth are any safer in school or even at home. LGBTQ youth are still more likely to become homeless, drop out of high school, and attempt suicide than their peers. And for queer youth with intersecting marginalized identities—like trans youth of color or queer teens with disabilities—life can be even harder.
What has Facebook said about all of this? In a company statement from 2017 regarding contributions, they clarified:
“In deciding which federal candidates to support, Facebook PAC considers whether an individual candidate’s policy stances are consistent with Facebook’s public policy agenda and business interests…”
And later stated:
“A contribution to a candidate for office does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate may espouse.”
As noted by The Daily Beast, earlier this very year, Facebook stated that “ads that promote gay conversion therapy” are banned. While that’s something, it’s always important to follow where the money goes. Accountability is everything, especially when organizations get credit for being progressive and allies.