Republicans’ newly minted nominee to face Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) this fall recently defended gay conversion therapy, a deeply controversial practice of treating homosexuality and transgender identity as mental illnesses or addictions that can be cured.
Steve Negron, a GOP state lawmaker, won his party’s primary to face Kuster on Tuesday. Just weeks ago, he defended his vote in the state legislature against a bipartisan bill to ban gay conversion therapy for minors.
“I did not vote for that. I believe that’s something that, when you look at these young children that are trying to make a decision, and I remember when I was 15-16 I was confused, I had a lot of options in my life,” he said during a late August Facebook Live interview with WMUR, the state’s largest TV station.
“I think we need to be able to help them understand what it is, give them the right information, and let them get the treatment that they need to understand what the situation is,” Negron continued. “And I think the parents have a huge role in that as well.”
The comments were flagged to TPM by American Bridge, a Democratic research group.
Negron’s views run counter to a number of other Republicans in the state who recently worked in a bipartisan fashion to ban the practice of allowing parents to force gay and transgender youth to undergo conversion therapy. That practice is based on the discredited view that homosexuality is a mental illness. It is often run by religious leaders rather than licensed therapists, and can include everything from talk therapy to aversion therapy, physical punishment and electro-shock treatments.
The American Psychological Association has said the practice can lead to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
That bill and another bill protecting transgender rights passed both Republican-controlled chambers of the New Hampshire legislature this year with bipartisan support. They were signed into law by the state’s Republican governor this past June, making New Hampshire the 14th state to ban gay conversion therapy for minors.
“Discrimination – in any form – is unacceptable and runs contrary to New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die Spirit,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said in a statement on the pair of bills.
The district Negron is running in has swung back and forth between the parties in recent years, and Hillary Clinton carried it by less than a three-point margin in 2016. But Kuster is heavily favored to win reelection this fall in a year that’s shaping up to be a strong one for Democrats.
Negron was also asked about gay marriage in the interview. He said it was settled law, saying that while as a practicing Catholic he believed “marriage is very succinct, what it is, but for [LGBTQ] people that are in a relationship they should have all the rights and privileges as anybody else.”
Negron’s campaign didn’t respond to a call requesting comment.