A bill that would restrict the use of conversion therapy for patients younger than 18 offers a sensible answer to a horrible practice.
Conversion therapy for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth is child abuse, plain and simple. The Washington Legislature should have banned this horrible practice long ago.
If action in the Senate is any indication, 2018 will be the year for a sensible approach to changing state law to stop conversion therapy.
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, sponsored the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate last week. Senate Bill 5722 is now being considered in the House.
All major psychological and medical organizations agree with Liias’ assessment of conversion therapy: “This is torture, and it should not take place in Washington state.”
The proposal would make it “unprofessional conduct” for a licensed health-care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient younger than 18. The bill would not restrict clergy members and volunteer counselors or even parents from attempting the practice, but child-abuse laws could come into play in those circumstances.
Some speakers at a public hearing last week expressed concern this bill would restrict therapists from even talking with children about their sexuality, but that is an exaggeration of the proposal and its intent.
The bill is simple and similar to laws that have already passed in nine other states, including California. The proposal would change the state discipline statutes for health-care providers to add conversion therapy to a list of unprofessional conduct that already includes fraud as well as misuse of drugs or alcohol. The law allows sanctions including license revocation or suspension, mandatory remedial education and fines.
According to numerous scientific studies, conversion therapy does not work in any way. You cannot convert someone away from his or her true nature. Conversion therapy can, however, make young people more depressed, more marginalized, more suicidal and more likely to run away from home.
This therapy is more than unprofessional. It is outrageous. This practice must be banned in Washington state. The proposal before the Legislature this year is a good start and should win approval.