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Julia Craven   |   March 2, 2015    2:50 PM ET

Ku Klux Klan fliers are rattling a city in Washington state, after residents found the anti-Muslim propaganda thrown in their driveways last month.

“You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake!” read the front of the fliers, while the back contained Islamophobic hate speech, according to the local NBC affiliate, KHQ-TV.

In January, around 65 fliers were discovered on residents' windshields in an apartment complex in Idaho, not far from Millwood. Local authorities said no one group was singled out on those fliers and that suspects could face charges that include placing propaganda on private property charges.

Klansmen throwing fliers containing racist language is not a new concept. The practice holds some historical significance and has been a means of terrorizing communities and recruiting new members.

Fliers similar to the ones found in Millwood were discovered in Pineville, Louisiana, last month; a Chicago suburb in 2013; St. Louis in 2014 and Rockledge, Florida -- a Latino neighborhood -- last year.

“It’s just shocking,” Deanna Cuevas, a longtime resident of Millwood, said of the most recent incident in an interview with KHQ-TV. “This has never happened in our neighborhood.”

Cuevas daughter, Teresa, went around the neighborhood trashing each flier she could find.

“I did that because I don't want them to feel the same upset and hurt that I felt,” she told KHQ 06. “We don't need children coming and seeing this. This is not okay. It's disgusting.”

This isn't the first action the KKK has taken against American Muslims.

In 2013, an anti-Muslim terrorism plot led by a reputed Klansman, Glendon Scott Crawford, was stopped by FBI agents. Crawford scouted mosques and Islamic centers as “viable targets” for a weapon he believed could kill Muslims via radiation poisoning, according to CAIR.

Sam Levine   |   March 1, 2015    5:16 PM ET

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) admitted on Sunday that he had completely changed his stance on immigration and that he now has a much tougher position on undocumented individuals living in the United States.

"I don't believe in amnesty, and part of the reason why I've made that a firm position is I look at the way this president has mishandled that issue," Walker said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

"I think the better approach is to enforce the laws and to give employers, job creators the tools like E-Verify and other things to make sure the law is being upheld going forward," he said.

But pressed by host Chris Wallace on how Walker could reconcile that with his past support for comprehensive immigration reform and 2013 comments in which he said that he supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Walker admitted that his position had shifted.

"My view has changed, I'm flat out saying it. Candidates can say that, sometimes they don't," Walker said. "I look at the problems we’ve experienced over the last few years. I talked to governors on the border and others out there, I’ve talked to people all across America, and the concerns I have is that we need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works, a legal immigration system that works."

Walker's newer hard-line immigration stance draws distance between him and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), a potential 2016 rival for the White House, who has defended a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Jeb Bush Reaffirms He Does Not Support Marriage Equality

Amanda Terkel   |   February 27, 2015    4:27 PM ET

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) stood by his opposition to same-sex marriage Friday, despite some speculation in recent days that he may be warming to the idea of marriage equality.

If Bush runs for president, some of his closest aides will be individuals who are strong public supporters of legalizing same-sex marriage. The hires, reported BuzzFeed, led to some chatter among Republicans that Bush could position himself as "the gay-friendly Republican in the 2016 field."

Bush, however, rejected that characterization Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference during his conversation with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

"No. I believe in traditional marriage," said Bush when Hannity asked him whether he's changing his position on the issue.

In January, Bush said he was disappointed by a court's decision to allow marriage equality in the state.

"It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision," he said. "The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess."

He also said, however, that he had little appetite to repeal marriage equality through means such as amending the U.S. Constitution.

"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law," said Bush in January. "I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue -- including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty."

Bush was also scheduled to meet Friday with Family Research Council President, a group that opposes equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. That news raised doubts with the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign that Bush was changing his positions.

“At the end of the day, it isn’t rhetoric or hiring practices that count, it’s what a candidates stands for," said Human Rights Campaign spokesman Fred Sainz. "A candidate who is truly committed to LGBT equality will support marriage equality and support protecting all LGBT Americans from discrimination. While the tone of Jeb Bush’s language and word choice may have changed, he hasn’t yet articulated different policies from when he opposed marriage equality and opposed discrimination protections as governor. There are more questions than answers on where Bush stands today.”

Marriage equality is currently legal in 37 states. The Supreme Court this year will consider whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide.

This story has been updated to include comment from the Human Rights Campaign.

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Protests Erupt Over UNC Board's Decision To Shutter Poverty Center

Samantha Lachman   |   February 27, 2015    2:54 PM ET

University of North Carolina students and faculty raucously protested the board of governors' vote Friday to disband a poverty-focused think-tank led by a critic of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-controlled state legislature.

Approximately two-dozen protesters disrupted the meeting to voice their disapproval of the board's decision to close the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some were escorted out by campus police at UNC Charlotte, according to the Associated Press.

The proposal to close the poverty center incited controversy after a working group charged with reviewing the system's research centers advanced it last week. Closure supporters on the board argued that the center did advocacy and therefore was inappropriately associated with an academic institution and that it "did not provide a wide range of alternatives for addressing poverty."

Since the center is privately funded, critics of the board's decision say that the process was politically motivated. The center's head, law professor Gene Nichol, wrote it was a "dark day" for the university in a statement following the vote. Nichol called the decision a reprisal act, given his criticisms of the state legislature for cutting unemployment benefits, rejecting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and passing voting rights restrictions.

"None should be confused about what happened today in Charlotte," Nichol wrote. "The university’s governing board moved to abolish an academic center in order to punish its director for publishing articles that displease the board and its political benefactors. The governors said to a member of the faculty: We cannot allow your writings to go without rebuke. We may not be able to fire you, but we will do all we can to suppress your efforts. Criticisms of this governor and of this General Assembly, at this public university, are not to be tolerated. Were I to have praised the legislature’s war on poor people rather than decry it, the board would have placed laurels on my head instead of boots on my neck."

The UNC board also voted to close a center studying biodiversity at East Carolina University and one focused on civic engagement at North Carolina Central University.

Russ Feingold Moving Closer To 2016 Senate Run

Amanda Terkel   |   February 26, 2015    2:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Russ Feingold has been reaching out to supporters in recent weeks to discuss a 2016 Senate bid to retake his old seat from Republican Ron Johnson, sources with knowledge of the calls told The Huffington Post.

The progressive Wisconsin Democrat was wiped out of the Senate in the tea party wave of 2010, but since then, many supporters have been keeping their fingers crossed that he'd run again -- in a presidential election year likely to be more favorable to Democrats.

Multiple sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity told HuffPost that in recent months, Feingold has talked to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), among others.

Feingold will step down in March from his position as the State Department's special envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, the sources indicated, and can't make an announcement before that.

But he toyed with reporters on Tuesday during an event at the U.S. Institute of Peace by referring to his aide, Mary Irvine, as his "once, current and, I hope, future chief of staff."

A source close to Feingold confirmed that the former senator has been having conversations with a number of supporters, but refused to comment further on his plans. "After Russ steps down from the State Department in March," the source said, "there will of course be a transition period before any decision is announced. The enthusiasm expressed for Russ over the past week has been truly incredible."

Feingold is a longtime opponent of special interests' influence on campaigns and lawmaking. Along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), he co-authored landmark campaign finance legislation that was later gutted by the Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision. After his 2010 loss, Feingold started Progressives United, a group dedicated to combating corporate influence in politics.

The Wisconsin Democrat also became known for staking out sometimes lonely positions on national security. In 2001, Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the federal government's surveillance powers. He was also one of the 23 senators who voted against the war in Iraq.

Although Feingold has not yet publicly commented on whether he will be running -- he is at the State Department and prohibited from doing so -- Republicans are already targeting him and trying to portray him as too liberal for Wisconsin.

"Liberal Russ Feingold is a career politician whose time with the State Department was just a placeholder until he could run for political office again," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek in a press release Tuesday. "Unlike Ron Johnson who has spent his career creating jobs in the Fox Valley, Feingold has spent over two decades in politics and has gone from one taxpayer-funded job to the next. Wisconsin families rejected his tax-and-spend ways once and they will do it again if necessary."

The Wisconsin Republican Party has made similar attacks, and even started a site called

"Russ Feingold is too radical for the U.S. Senate, and Wisconsin voters should be wary of his voting record of supporting one disastrous policy after another,” said Joe Fadness, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in a statement to HuffPost. "His desperate attempt to return to power is nothing more than a repackaged effort to push failed policies that are wrong for Wisconsin."

However, Johnson faces a much tougher campaign in 2016, which is a presidential election year, than he did in 2010. Democratic presidential candidates have won Wisconsin since 1988. And not only does Johnson have a low approval rating, many voters still don't really know who he is.

A 2014 poll by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling group indicated that Feingold would lead Johnson, 47 to 41, in a potential rematch.

"Johnson has done very little to grow his support," said a longtime Wisconsin Democratic strategist who requested anonymity in order to speak openly. "He was obviously elected in an off-year election that was a Republican wave election and he hasn't done the sort of things that you would expect from someone to run in a presidential year election. He really comes at this race from a place where he hasn't really moved beyond the tea party support that largely helped elect him in 2010."

Wisconsin Democrats say they expect Feingold to easily win the Democratic nomination -- with a strong chance that he won't have any challengers at all -- since he remains a popular figure with party activists in the state. Many wanted him to run against Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the 2012 recall election, and were disappointed when he chose not to.

"This Senate race in Wisconsin is shaping up to be the number one targeted pickup of the cycle for Democrats, and all eyes are on Feingold to see if he can put together a race that builds not only on his past strengths, but also address some of the challenges from the 2010 loss," said Patrick Guarasci, a Democratic strategist in Wisconsin.

The Hill recently reported that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Jon Tester (Mont.) said that he had talked to Feingold about a possible run. Tester added he believed the Wisconsin Democrat had learned from some of his 2010 missteps, when he ran was what widely acknowledged as a brutally anemic campaign.

"The conversation [with Feingold] was ‘It's a new day now,'" Tester said. "In 2010, Citizens United started about two-thirds of the way through on that race, I believe it was in June on a November election. It's a different world now. ... Russ is a good guy and if Russ chooses to [run] he'd be a formidable candidate. I think he learned from the last election."

This story has been updated to include further detail about Republicans' criticism of Feingold.

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Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   February 26, 2015    2:01 PM ET

There's good news and bad news for both parties, in a Pew Research poll out Thursday: Republicans are seen as extreme and intolerant but more trusted to handle international issues, while Democrats' position as the party of the middle class doesn't translate into an edge on the economy.

Compared to the GOP, Democrats are 24 points more likely to be perceived as tolerant and open to all groups of people, and 17 points more likely to be seen as caring about the middle class. They're also 14 points less likely to be perceived as being too extreme.

Public Divided Over ‘Who Should Take the Lead’

But "the Republican Party fares much better on issues than image," the survey finds. While Democrats are slightly more trusted on health care, the two parties are about tied on the economy, immigration and abortion. The GOP has a significant lead as the party preferred to handle taxes, the threat of terrorism, and, for the first time since 2002, foreign policy. Americans are now 13 points more likely to trust Republicans than Democrats on foreign policy, up from just a 1-point edge on the issue last October.

Overall, Americans remain decidedly lukewarm about both parties. Only 36 percent approve of Democratic congressional leaders, while congressional Republicans, facing disapproval from half of their own party, are at just 26 percent.

President Barack Obama fares a little better, with 48 percent approval, but there's a nearly even divide on whether he or Republican congressional leaders should take the lead in solving the nation's problems.

Pew surveyed 1,504 Americans between Feb. 18 and 22, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.

Samantha Lachman   |   February 26, 2015    1:22 PM ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has made it her mission to highlight and ameliorate the challenges middle-class Americans face, recently seized on the new Republican rhetoric being used to acknowledge wage stagnation and inequality.

Her comments about the Republican Party's obligation to help the middle class, given its support for the policies that helped them fall behind in the first place, came Tuesday during a forum to introduce the "Middle Class Prosperity Project," which she launched with Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.).

The clip of Warren's remarks has already been viewed on Facebook more than 1 million times in the past two days, making it one of her most successful viral videos to date. In it she says:

Recently Republicans seem to have discovered the struggles of America's middle class. Out of nowhere, they're suddenly talking about this problem. Well that's great, but talk is cheap and when it comes to action, these Republicans seem to have amnesia about what they've actually done to hard-working Americans. Republican trickle-down policies created tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy while leaving working families to pick up the pieces. I'll believe Republicans care about what's happening to America's middle class when they stop blocking legislation that would require billionaires to pay taxes at least at the same rate that teachers and firefighters do. Republican trickle-down economics blocked increases in the minimum wage that would have lifted 14 million people out of poverty.

I'll believe that Republicans care about what's happening to America's working families when they stop blocking minimum wage increases and agree that no one, no one in this country should work full time and still live in poverty. Republican trickle-down economics squeezed billions of dollars of profits out of people who had to borrow money to go to college. I'll believe Republicans care about what's happening to America's future when they agree to refinance student loans.

I could go on, but the point is the same: Talk is cheap. It's time for action -- action that will strengthen America's middle-class families and build a strong future, action that will produce good jobs now and in the future. It is time to put up or shut up. I have a message for my Republican colleagues: You control Congress. Stop talking about helping the middle class, and start doing it.

Warren went on to mention that top priorities of Republican legislators, two months into Congress' new session, have included "debating a pipeline that will mostly benefit a giant foreign oil company" and "threatening a government shutdown of the Homeland Security Department."

"That's not good enough," she concluded.

Watch the video above.

Amber Ferguson   |   February 26, 2015   11:57 AM ET

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday slammed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for failing to “defend our ambassador” during the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attack, saying this "preclude[s] her from even being considered for the higher office.”

“The biggest mistake Hillary Clinton made, and think this will be an albatross over her neck for the rest of the campaign, I don’t think she’ll be able to overcome this, is that when she was asked to provide security for Benghazi, she didn’t do it,” Paul said in an interview with Yahoo’s Katie Couric.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.

Paul spoke about the ongoing effort to fight the Islamic State and revealed what he'd do if he were president.

“The only people over there that can fight and have been showing some ability to fight are the Kurds,” Paul said.

“The president has been sending weapons to Baghdad. They’re not adequately getting to Kurdistan. I would fund them directly," Paul added. "I would take some of the weaponry that we have leftover in Afghanistan and I would send that directly to the Kurds.”

Clinton and Paul are both expected to announce whether they'll launch 2016 presidential bids in the coming months.

Watch Rand Paul above.

Sara Bondioli   |   February 26, 2015   11:35 AM ET

Congress does more than just fight, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) proved that Thursday when she showed up for a press conference with a sign of support for her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who's recovering from eye surgery.

Reid, who fell and injured himself while exercising in January, had surgery on his right eye two weeks ago. He had been wearing a bandage over the eye. However, Tuesday he was spotted wearing some sweet shades that looked slightly out of place inside the Capitol.

harry reid

When Pelosi joined Reid for a press conference in the Senate Thursday morning, she pulled out her own pair of sunglasses. Reid, however, had swapped his eyewear for a pair of clear glasses.

Scott Walker Fundraises Off Right-To-Work Battle In Wisconsin

Amanda Terkel   |   February 26, 2015   10:47 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) campaign sent a fundraising email Thursday boasting that he is once again taking on unions and stands ready to sign legislation that would deal a serious blow to labor forces in the state.

"Governor Scott Walker will sign legislation to make Wisconsin a 'Right to Work' state, prohibiting employees from being forced to join a union against their will. It's the right thing to do for job creators and employees alike," reads the email sent by Friends of Scott Walker, the governor's political arm. "But you know how it is: It threatens the power the Big Government Labor Bosses crave and they are going to come after him with everything they've got."

The GOP-controlled Wisconsin state Senate approved a right-to-work bill Wednesday, and the measure will now head to the GOP-controlled Assembly, where it's also expected to pass. Walker has promised to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.

Under U.S. labor law, when a workplace unionizes, the union must represent every single employee in the bargaining unit -- even the ones who didn't vote for the union. Right-to-work measures allow those anti-union workers, however, to avoid paying fees to the union, though it is still bargaining on their behalf.

Such measures can cripple labor. Bargaining and organizing costs money, but unions have fewer funds to work with in places with right-to-work laws; workers have less incentive to voluntarily pay unions that are obligated to represent them anyway.

If Walker signs the right-to-work legislation, Wisconsin would be the 25th state with such a law.

"Governor Walker is a conservative champion," reads the email sent Thursday. "He is a bold reformer who dares to take on the Big Government Labor Unions and he wins. ... What bothers the Big Government Labor Bosses the most is that Governor Walker says what he means, does what he says, and gets great results. Now the attacks he will face will be unlike anything you have ever seen before and he needs your help more than ever."

Walker hasn't always wholeheartedly embraced right-to-work though. With his anti-union credentials already strong after signing a law in 2011 that struck at public employee unions, he really wasn't looking for another fight. Walker had said in recent months that right to work would be a "distraction." Republican legislative leaders, however, decided to push ahead.

The campaign email is below:

UPDATE: 11:18 a.m. -- Friends of Scott Walker sent out a slightly different version of the email later on Thursday:

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Amber Ferguson   |   February 25, 2015    1:57 PM ET

Former U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin urged members of Congress on Tuesday to establish a human colony on Mars and to “combine the mission” with China.

While testifying before the Senate's Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, Aldrin said "there is no more convincing way to demonstrate American leadership for the remainder of this century than to use 20 July 2019, to commit to and execute a permanent presence on Mars.”

NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.

Aldrin said, "American leadership is inspiring the world by consistently doing what no other nation is capable of doing. We demonstrated that for a brief time 45 years ago. I do not believe we have done it since."

“I envision a program of settlement that schedules most of the crews who go to Mars will remain and establish a permanent settlement there," Aldrin said.

Aldrin also urged lawmakers to work with China’s space station in the near future. The 85-year-old space veteran said, “Do we have a relationship with China? It’s very significant if we’re going to deal with leadership.”

“China needs the things we can build. We need to exert leadership by working with them in the lower orbit. … They got a lot of things to do with the moon, we can help them in their permanence because it helps us with our permanence at Mars," he said.

Aldrin along with fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong were the first humans to land on the moon on July 20, 1969, during the Apollo 11 mission.

Watch Buzz Aldrin above.

GOP Pollster Explains Why Republicans Need Record Minority Support To Win In 2016

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   February 24, 2015   10:03 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The American electorate is more diverse than ever, which means Republicans will have to attract a record percentage of minorities to win the presidency in 2016, a GOP pollster said Tuesday.

About 70 percent of the Americans eligible to vote are white, a decline of 15 percentage points since 1980, according to a new report co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Brookings Institution. The report estimates that white eligible voters will become a minority in the next 45 years.

"The fundamental challenge for my side is the seemingly inexorable change in the composition of presidential electorates," Republican pollster Whit Ayres, whose clients include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said during a panel discussing the report. "And there's no reason to believe that that's going to stop magically."

The demographic change poses little problem for the GOP in midterm elections, when young and minority voters are far more likely than older, white voters to stay home. But in the run-up to 2016, the demographic trend has some Republicans citing a need for change.

In 2004, Republicans' most recent presidential victory, George W. Bush won 58 percent of the white vote, and 26 percent of the non-white vote -- numbers that would lose him the White House today, Ayres said.

'"That's the stunning part for me in running these numbers -- to realize that the last Republican to win a presidential election, who reached out very aggressively to minorities, and did better than any Republican nominee before or since among minorities, still didn't achieve enough of both of those groups in order to put together a winning percentage" for 2016, Ayres said.

Ayres isn't the first Republican pollster to stress the demographic challenges facing the party.

"Winning in a non-presidential-turnout year, when older and white voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate, should convince no one that we’ve fixed our basic shortfalls with key electoral groups, including minorities and younger voters," GOP pollsters Glen Bolger and Neil Newhouse wrote in The Washington Post last fall. "To win 50.1 percent of the popular vote, we estimate, Republicans will need nearly 64 percent of the white vote -- which would be a record for a non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate."

But Ayres rebutted the idea that Republicans are facing an existential crisis. "The fact is that the Republican Party is one candidate and one election away from resurrection," he said, naming Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as candidates with the potential to win.

Matt Barreto, co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions, also named Bush as a possible candidate to bridge the gap with Latino voters.

"There's very good reason to believe Jeb Bush has an opportunity to rebuild the GOP image if he can stay true to his message and get through the Republican primary," Barreto said at the panel Tuesday.

On the flip side, Barreto said, Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to pick up a record number of Latino votes and solidify Latinos as a Democratic voting bloc for years to come.

"If Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, she has this serious opportunity to hit and eclipse the 80 percent mark with Latino voters," Barreto said. "Now, if that happens -- which I think between these two scenarios there's a better likelihood of -- I think you are now starting to talk about a more permanent realignment in the Latino vote."

Sam Levine   |   February 24, 2015    9:27 PM ET

Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said earlier this month that members of the Congressional Black Caucus opposed war because they wanted to spend money on food stamps instead.

During a radio interview with Lew Rockwell that was first highlighted by BuzzFeed, Paul said that he was always annoyed with those who opposed war but supported sanctions.

"I was always annoyed with it in Congress because we had an anti-war unofficial group, a few libertarian Republicans and generally the black caucus and others, they're really against war because they want all that money to go to food stamps for people here," Paul said. "But when it came to sanctions, they just could never vote against sanctions because that would prevent war and they wanted to look tough and they'd go on with the sanctions but never get the results that they thought they were gonna get."

The comments come as Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), seems to be gearing up for a presidential run. The Kentucky senator -- who has worked to reach out to black voters -- has distanced himself from his father's isolationist views.

Listen to audio of Paul's remarks here.

Some States Are Taking A Stand Against Controversial Gay Conversion Therapy

Paige Lavender   |   February 24, 2015    3:47 PM ET

Lawmakers in several states are considering legislation that would ban conversion therapy, a controversial practice that's sometimes touted as a gay "cure" that has proven harmful and been denounced by many, including the American Psychiatric Association.

A bipartisan effort called the “Youth Mental Health Protection Act” being pushed in West Virginia says "being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming," citing the APA's findings on conversion therapy as proof a ban is needed.

“Our first and most important duty is to protect our children,” Del. Stephen Skinner (D), West Virginia's first openly gay lawmaker and the lead sponsor of the bill, said in a statement released by the group Fairness West Virginia. “The Youth Mental Health Protection Act prevents LGBT youth from medical quackery. Conversion therapy is not based on science or evidence and can do serious damage to young people forced into it.”

Oregon lawmakers heard a request from gay rights group Basic Rights Oregon on Monday to ban conversion therapy on children under 18. Paul Southwick, an attorney who has experienced conversion therapy, testified in favor of the bill, encouraging lawmakers to pass legislation to ban the controversial practice.

"Conversion therapy offers a false hope, built on a flawed premise," Southwick said, according to KGW. "The flawed premise is if you're gay or transsexual that you're sick, that you have an illness or that there's something wrong with you."

But not all states are considering bans on the practice. An Oklahoma House committee passed legislation Tuesday that says parents may obtain counseling or therapy for children under 18 without interference by the state, according to the AP. The bill says parents can use conversion therapy to address "unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, identity, or sexual and/or gender-identity expressions."

State Rep. Sally Kern (R), who proposed the Oklahoma bill, said the measure is meant "to protect parental rights," the AP reports.

"It is prudent for us to make sure that we protect our children," Kern said.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider arguments against California's ban on conversion therapy in 2014, paving the way for the state to end the practice for children under 18.