Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's controversial pick for education secretary, supports same-sex marriage, according to a family spokesman, despite her extended family's long history of donating millions to anti-LGBT groups.
"Betsy is supportive of gay marriage," John Truscott told BuzzFeed News. Truscott said he'd spoken to DeVos personally in the wake of a tense Senate hearing in which DeVos was grilled by Democrats about the possibility that she held views hostile to LGBT people. She has not previously spoken publicly about the issue.
Gay rights advocates have called DeVos a "grave threat" to gay students, based on her family's donations to the ultra-conservative organization Focus on the Family. Her father was one of the founders of the Family Research Council, which believes homosexuality is dangerous and advocates for "conversion therapy." Most psychologists oppose conversion therapy, calling it discredited and harmful.
Until the hearings, little was known about DeVos's personal views on gay rights. Tax filings showed she sat on the board of her mother's foundation for almost two decades, a time in which the group gave more than $5 million to Focus on the Family. But DeVos called her listing on tax filings a "clerical error," and Truscott said she had "never consented" to being listed on the foundation's board.
DeVos was vague about her support for gay rights during the hearing, saying only that she believed in "equality" and "the innate value of every single human being," and that she was opposed to the bullying of children. She and her husband, Dick, gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family from their personal foundation in 1999, but haven't donated money to the group in well over a decade. Truscott said the $275,000 went to a specific initiative that was unrelated to gay rights.
"It's a generational thing," said Truscott of DeVos's split from her parents and father-in-law, who once donated money to ban gay marriage in Michigan.
This post has been updated to reflect the fact that most psychologists oppose conversion therapy, calling it discredited and harmful.
Molly Hensley-Clancy is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. She covers the intersection of business and education.
Contact Molly Hensley-Clancy at email@example.com.
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