Bans on conversion therapy

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Conversion therapy bans. So-called conversion therapy is defined as any treatment that helps those struggling with same-sex attraction — or those with gender dysphoria to embrace their biological sex.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: California passed the first law banning licensed counselors from helping individuals with unwanted feelings- in 2012. In the last few years, nine other states have followed suit. Now there’s a rash of new conversion ban bills making their way through state legislatures.

WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has our story.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: In the past six weeks, five states have advanced or passed conversion ban bills. Those states are Washington, Hawaii, Maryland, Colorado and Maine. And California is working to expand its existing ban.

Five of these six measures are similar. They all prohibit licensed therapists from trying to help change a minor patient’s self-proclaimed sexual orientation or gender identity.

On March 28th, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a ban that will go into effect in June.

INSLEE: Today when I sign Senate Bill 5722 we will be protecting our children by banning conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is not so much therapy. It’s abuse, and we are today prohibiting the abuse of our children.

The legislation deems it “unprofessional conduct” for a licensed health-care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18.

Two weeks ago, Maryland’s House and Senate passed a conversion therapy ban that also prohibits using state funds for referral or support of the practice.

House Delegate Republican Meagan Simonaire said in a speech that her father, Republican state Senator Bryan Simonaire, asked her to try conversion therapy after she revealed she was bi-sexual. She said it caused her significant pain and depression.

SIMONAIRE: Hear this, what is not broken cannot be fixed. I repeat. What is not broken cannot be fixed.

A week earlier, Simonaire’s state senator father had voted against the bill.

The legislation now goes before Republican Governor Larry Hogan. His office says he supports it.

Last week Maine and Hawaii’s House of Representatives passed their own versions of a conversion therapy ban for minors.

Supporters of the laws argue the bans protect people from ineffective and abusive therapy methods that cause repression and shame. They contend sexual orientation and gender identity are fixed and can’t be changed.

Peter Sprigg, a senior research fellow at the Family Research Council, testified against the Maryland bill. He says sexual orientation is not fixed, especially in adolescence.

SPRIGG: In fact, there is a great deal of what is often called fluidity in terms of any of the three separate measures of sexual orientation, a person’s attractions, their behaviors or their, the way that they identify themselves.

Sprigg cites research showing among boys who claimed exclusive same-sex romantic attraction, only 11- percent reported that attraction one year later.

The National Task Force for Therapy has also pointed to a study that shows 75 percent of boys and girls who experience gender dysphoria accept their biological sex, if they’re not pointed towards transition.

Sprigg says all of these state bills put licensed mental health providers who don’t agree with the LGBT agenda in danger of losing their licenses, especially Christian counselors.

Counselors like Randy Stanko. Stanko is a licensed Christian counselor in Montrose, Colorado where, last month, the state House passed another conversion therapy ban onto the Senate.

Stanko has been practicing since 1977, but he sees a day where he’ll have to let his state license go.

STANKO: There’s going to be a time I suspect that I will gladly let go of my state license to do therapy because it will force me to do certain things and not do other things. At that point I’d be obliged to say, OK, goodbye. I’ll do religious counseling.

Soon, even that fallback plan may be in jeopardy.

Prior bans have traditionally left church counselors alone—but now a California measure threatens unlicensed religious counselors. The bill would label any view of sexuality or gender identity at odds with the LGBT agenda as “fraudulent” and liable to prosecution, including ideas expressed in books, conferences or therapy with minors and adults.    

The proposed legislation has passed out of one committee and on to another.

Peter Sprigg with the Family Research Council says the California legislation may be a sign of things to come.

SPRIGG: We are seeing that that is the direction in which the, um, LGBT activists want to move is towards even more draconian prohibitions.

At least 19 other states are considering their own conversion therapy bans.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(AP Photo/Rachel La Corte) Surrounded by supporters, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (seated) signs ban on sexual orientation change efforts.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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