Two of Donald Trump's delegates from San Diego run a political organization that claims homosexuality results from childhood sexual abuse by gays. The husband and wife also say homosexuality "is a disorder that can be cured" with treatment.
Such theories are widely discredited, so much so that the practice of so-called conversion therapy has been banned in California and several other states.
The views of John and Donna Woodrum espoused through their Eagle Forum come to light just before the Republican National Convention opens in Cleveland.
They aren't the first Trump supporters with controversial views. In May, another potential Trump delegate was discovered to be a white nationalist who leads the American Freedom Party, a group that says it "represents the interests and issues of European-Americans."
Trump's campaign later said a database error caused William Johnson's selection, and he was taken off the delegate list.
The Woodrums' stance is controversial among many Republicans, and puts them in disagreement with at least one of Trump's closest allies, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. In 2013, Christie signed into a law a bill that bans gay conversion therapy.
Other Trump supporters embrace conversion therapy. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's vice presidential pick, said during his run for Congress in 2000 that government "resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior."
The GOP's recently developed platform for the national convention also supports conversion therapy.
The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment.
The Woodrums' website for the San Diego chapter of the Eagle Forum espouses what are widely regarded as extreme theories.
"Where does homosexuality come from? Early childhood sexual abuse," the website states.
"Children can be attacked by sexual predators when they're still in diapers in their cribs," it continues. "The sexual act is so powerful, when committed often enough and charged with enough psychological energy, it could alter a growing child's sexual identity."
The website contends that identity can be changed. "Homosexuality is a disorder that can be cured — prior to 1973 every psychiatrist in the US knew this," it says.
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, said it's disappointing but not surprising that the Woodrums are Republican delegates.
"It's unfortunate that they would be delegates to the Republican National Convention, but that's what we've come to expect," he said. "It's not surprising when you have Trump at the top of the ticket."
The Log Cabin Republicans, a wing of the party that pushes for gay rights, called the party's stance the "most anti-LGBT platform in the Party's 162-year history," and said that opposition to same-sex marriage, support for conversion therapy, and stances on other issues are out of step with the public at large.
Conversion therapy consists of programs that attempt to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians. The therapy has been widely discredited by the mainstream medical community; homosexuality is not recognized by mental health professionals as a disorder.
At least five states and Washington, D.C., ban such programs. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California legislation into law in 2012, and the measure has withstood challenges in federal court.
In an interview Thursday, John Woodrum wouldn't fully vouch for the effectiveness of the therapy.
"From what I've heard and what I've read, it seems to be one of those things that in some cases it [isn't effective]," he said.
He said the San Diego chapter of the Eagle Forum is a small but active group that meets monthly.
To become a delegate, political party members apply and are selected by congressional district, but the vetting process varies among campaigns. The delegates get to participate in the national convention and cast a vote for the nomination.
Delegates are often prominent and include elected officials, such as Trump delegates Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), state Sen. Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) and El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells. They also include party operatives, fundraisers and well-known conservatives such as developer Doug Manchester, former owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
John Woodrum said he applied to be a delegate by completing a form that asked about his political background, views on policy, and financial and time commitments required of delegates. He said he began the process in March, and the Trump campaign took several weeks to choose him as a delegate.
Woodrum, president of the Eagle Forum chapter, unsuccessfully ran for the 53rd Congressional District in 2006 and as a write-in candidate for San Diego mayor in 2012. He was also a coordinator who pushed for the passage of Proposition 8, the 2008 measure that barred same-sex marriages in California. It passed with 52% of the vote, but courts ruled it unconstitutional.
His LinkedIn profile also lists him as a founder of the Solana Beach-based Salt & Light Council, group that works with churches to "defend and promote life, natural marriage, our constitutional and religious liberties" and "rebuild Christian heritage in America."
Donna Woodrum, information technology director and treasurer of the Eagle Forum chapter, made an unsuccessful bid for San Diego Community College District trustee in 2014.
Stewart writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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