A charity with direct ties to Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin is promoting a partnership with a controversial anti-LGBTQ group with a history of supporting conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.
The charity, #WeAreKy!, which received nearly half a million dollars in funding from the Governor’s now defunct inaugural committee, is run by the Governor’s spouse, Glenna Bevin, and is partnering with a group called Focus on the Family to advance a new initiative promoting adoption across the commonwealth. The initiative, called “Uniting Kentucky,” has promoted Focus on the Family’s adoption program with events and social media attention.
#WeAreKY!, was launched in May 2016, and received a $494,194.45 donation made by Matt Bevin’s inaugural committee after it dissolved in June 2016. Under Kentucky law, the Governor is allowed to donate unused inaugural committee funds to charitable causes, but Bevin drew scrutiny for giving the funds to a newly formed charity with his own wife at the helm.
At the time, Bevin’s staff declined to comment on the timing or the motive of the funding that #WeAreKY! received.
Despite its claims that #WeAreKY! is “dedicated to the betterment of the lives of Kentucky’s children,” its partnership with Focus on the Family is fraught with controversy.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Focus on the Family is “one of the most well-funded anti-LGBTQ organizations in America.” HRC has stated that Focus on the Family has staunchly opposed same-sex families adopting and fostering children, going so far as to describe children as “human guinea pigs” in the “same-sex family experiment,” seeming to put the organization into conflict with #WeAreKY!’s stated goal of promoting adoption.
Focus on the Family has also frequently advocated for conversion therapy, a practice that The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth, describes as a “variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities.”
When confronted with an instance of a 17 year old taking their own life due to conversion therapy in 2014, Focus on the Family dismissed the tragedy as an improperly politicized death whose motives couldn’t be identified. According to a 2019 Trevor Project study, 42% of LGBTQ individuals who had been through conversion therapy in the previous year attempted suicide.
Matt Bevin is no stranger to supporting anti-LGBTQ causes. In 2018, Bevin joined a coalition of states to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that LGBTQ individuals did not have protection against workplace discrimination. In 2016, Bevin called the idea of legislation protecting transgendered peoples bathroom rights “silly.” And in 2015, Bevin praised Kim Davis, the County Clerk who was briefly jailed for contempt of court after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.