POLITICS

Some States Are Taking A Stand Against Controversial Gay Conversion Therapy

02/24/2015 03:47 pm ET | Updated Feb 24, 2015
ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

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