Susan Collins “grateful” for endorsement from anti-choice group pushing harmful conversion therapy

The group "thinks it’s OK to torture LGBTQ children in misguided attempts to ‘fix’ them," advocates say

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published October 23, 2020 12:27PM (EDT)

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine (Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine (Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a self-avowed supporter of abortion rights and gay marriage, said she was "truly grateful" to receive an endorsement from a Christian group that opposes abortion and pushes the discredited and harmful practice of "conversion therapy" for LGBTQ people.

Collins, one of the most vulnerable Republican senators facing re-election next month, drew the backing of the Christian Civic League of Maine, a group that opposes abortion and has a decades-long history of opposing LGBTQ rights, according to the Maine Beacon.

The group said in its endorsement of Collins and President Donald Trump that it backed "candidates we believe will defend the unborn, religious freedom and parental rights." The term "parental rights" is "essentially a euphemism for conversion therapy," HuffPost noted, adding that the group's website warns against "biology-deniers" passing laws that would ban "any discussion between your child and a licensed therapist that affirms your child's biological reality."

Carroll Conley, the group's executive director, told Collins during an interview last week that the endorsement of was not a "casual" one. 

"We want you to know that our endorsement of Susan Collins is an enthusiastic endorsement," Conley said.

"Let me thank you so much for the endorsement and tell you how truly grateful I am for your support, for the league's support," Collins responded. 

The Christian Civic League has an ugly history of anti-gay campaigns. The group successfully pushed referendums in 1998 and 2000 to deny anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ community before losing a similar referendum just five years later, according to The Beacon.

The group asked for "tips, rumors, speculation and facts" about the sexual orientation of lawmakers in an apparent effort to out gay officials in 2004. It also pushed anti-gay marriage referendums in 2009 and 2013.

"More recently, the League has targeted transgender children, launching online campaigns against school districts who put in place protections against discrimination in line with a 2014 court ruling protecting the rights of transgender Mainers," The Beacon reported.

The group has also actively opposed abortion protections, as well as mandatory childhood vaccines, according to the report.

Collins, who has voted to confirm dozens of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ judges nominated by Trump, has already lost the endorsements of advocacy groups this cycle.

"Embracing an extremist anti-LGBTQ group's endorsement is nothing less than opportunistic in the waning days of this campaign," Lucas Acosta, a spokesperson for the LGBTQ rights group Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. "After years of being an independent voice for Mainers and advocating for the LGBTQ community, Collins has again chosen to pander to the far-right rather than stand by the principles she professed for years."

The LGBTQ advocacy group EqualityMaine said on Twitter that Collins "isn't even pretending to be a moderate anymore."

"Susan Collins took the endorsement of the Christian Civic League, an organization that thinks it's ok to torture LGBTQ children in misguided attempts to 'fix' them," the group added.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has endorsed Collins in the past, has also thrown its support behind Democratic challenger Sara Gideon.

"I think it's clear to all of us that Senator Collins has changed and she's not the senator she once was," Amy Cookson, the Maine spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Votes, told The Beacon, adding that Collins had voted with Trump 90% of the time.

"Despite what [Collins] says, her actions make it very clear that she can't be trusted to protect our health and rights, including safe legal abortion," Cookson said.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

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Abortion Aggregate Donald Trump Elections Elections 2020 Lgbtq Maine Politics Republicans Sara Gideon Susan Collins