Radio host and right-wing lawyer Jay Sekulow has become an influential adviser to President Donald Trump and has helped lead his impeachment defense. Sekulow is another member of Trump’s orbit who has a long anti-LGBTQ history: In his first book, he attacked being LGBTQ as a “perversion” and recommended the harmful and ineffective practice of conversion therapy.
Sekulow is a right-wing commentator and frequent Fox News guest. He also heads the anti-LGBTQ group American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which was founded by bigot and televangelist Pat Robertson in 1990.
Sekulow's anti-LGBTQ commentary dates back decades. He wrote his first book -- the now-out-of-print From Intimidation to Victory -- in 1990 and targeted LGBTQ people with bigoted attacks. In his chapter “Reprogramming Our Children,” he criticized schools for sponsoring presentations in which students were told that “there was nothing wrong with the gay life-style” and then accused the schools of sponsoring “sexual indoctrination” and justifying “perversion.”
Sekulow also recommended conversion therapy as a potential solution to homosexuality. The Trump official's promotion of the practice is a largely unexamined part of his anti-LGBTQ history -- one that's especialy relevant given the current political landscape regarding protections from conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth. Media Matters has previously documented that other members of Trump’s campaign have promoted conversion therapy, including senior Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis.
Conversion therapy is a harmful and discredited practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Medical groups including the American Psychiatric Association oppose the practice, with the APA writing that “there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‘reparative therapy’ as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation” and noting that risks include “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”
Sekulow suggested conversion therapy as a way to “change” an LGBTQ person, writing: “There is something wrong with homosexuality, and because its primary expression involves sexual activity, there is something one can do about it: abstain. The mental/emotional aspect for some homosexuals is quite difficult to change, but through Christian counseling and prayer it can often be accomplished.” And he later wrote, “The Bible tells us, and Christian counselors can confirm, that homosexuals and those leaning in that direction do need spiritual help and often professional, unbiased counseling.”
Sekulow concluded: “Most school systems are not exposed to such an out-front recruitment for homosexuality. If your schools are, fight it. To admit such a program violates your rights to be protected from the state’s establishing a religion--in this case amorality or secular humanism. There is no consensus that students need so-called ‘counseling’ about homosexuality to discover some innate, pervese sexual identity.”
Sekulow’s group ACLJ has a history of opposing pro-LGBTQ policies. As researcher Brian Tashman wrote for Political Research Associates, ACLJ “has been a consistent opponent of gay rights initiatives and a champion of anti-gay legislation” and has worked “against any efforts to end anti-LGBTQ discrimination.”
Sekulow and his son Jordan opened affiliated offices of the ACLJ in Africa to lobby politicians to “take the Christian’s views into consideration as they draft legislation and policies,” according to ACLJ’s website. ACLJ’s Zimbabwe office has pushed an agenda that backs outlawing same-sex marriage and making sure that homosexuality “remain[s] a criminal activity.” (Zimbabwe had outlawed homosexuality in 2006.) Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is among the most ruthless dictators in the world—but in 2010 ACLJ-Zimbabwe’s chairman, pastor Alex Chisango, led Mugabe and others in prayer to kick off Zimbabwe’s constitutional reform drive. ACLJ wanted to ensure that, whatever else changed in the country’s constitution, homosexuality remained illegal and same-sex marriage was banned. (Another ACLJ office in Kenya lobbied to eliminate an exemption allowing an abortion when a women’s life is at risk.)