Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Legislative committee holds hearing on bipartisan bill to ban 'conversion therapy' for changing sexual orientation of minors

A bill to ban the "conversion therapy" for changing sexual orientation got a hearing before an interim legislative committee Tuesday, perhaps improving its chance for passage in the General Assembly session that is scheduled to begin in January.

"Resuming their bipartisan alliance, Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr and Democratic Rep. Lisa Willner referred to conversion therapy as a discredited practice with potentially dangerous consequences," Louisville's WDRB-TV reports.

Kerr, one of whose children is gay, called the procedure “conversion torture.”

The bill would prohibit licensed mental health professionals from using conversion therapy on minors, or on adults deemed to lack capacity for responsible decision-making. "The bill’s supporters also want to block public money from going to any agency in Kentucky involved in conversion therapy," WDRB reports.

The bill is opposed by the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which said it would impede freedom of speech and religion and parental rights. The foundation's Daniel Mingo said the bill discriminates because it would block a form of counseling for unwanted same-sex attractions, but not counseling for those who “want to be gay."

Kerr told the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations that parents want to “pray the gay away in their child,” and cited studies indicating that youngsters undergoing conversion therapy are more likely to commit suicide.

Zach Meiners of Louisville, who underwent conversion therapy as a teenager, called it a “shame-based” practice and said it taught him to inflict physical pain on himself anytime he had “a gay thought.” He said he became suicidal.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky endorsed the bill, saying it "joins a long list of major medical and mental-health organizations in supporting legislation to protect LGBTQ youth from the discredited and harmful practice." It said at least 20 states and 700 cities and counties "have taken action to protect youth from these practices, according to the Movement Advancement Project."

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