Ohio lawmaker introduces bill to ban conversion therapy on minors

Charleta Tavares

Outlook ColumbusCharleta Tavares

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Psychologists, therapists and other professionals would be banned from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of Ohio children under a proposal from three state senators.

Ohio would be the third state to ban so-called “conversion therapy” if the bill written by Sen. Charleta Tavares becomes law. Sens. Edna Brown, D-Toledo, and Shirley Smith, D-Cleveland, are co-sponsoring the legislation, which has been sent to the Senate’s Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee.

Charleta Tavares

Outlook ColumbusCharleta Tavares

California and New Jersey already have banned conversion therapy, a practice that purports to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBT kids.

“It doesn’t work,” said Michael Ranney, executive director of the Ohio Psychological Association. “And in the process of doing it, many people are hurt.”

Ranney said his association backs Tavares’s bill.

Equality Ohio Executive Director Elyzabeth Holford welcomed the legislation and said she hopes it starts a conversation in Ohio about the practice and the harm it does to children

Tavares said her legislation gives Ohio the chance to be at the forefront on an issue involving LGBT civil rights and safety. The state’s anti-discrimination laws don’t cover gender identity or sexual orientation, and Ohio doesn’t extend marriage rights or offer any civil recognition for lesbian and gay relationships.

A law banning conversion therapy wouldn’t curtail parents’ rights in the least, Tavares said. It simply would ban a practice that has no scientific basis. Exodus International, a Christian religious ministry that pushed the idea of turning gay people straight for 37 years, issued an apology to the LGBT community in June and announced the end of its operations.

“This is about protecting children,” Tavares said of her bill. “Colleagues on both sides of the aisle want to prevent anything that causes harm to young people.”

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The Human Rights Campaign keeps a tally of medical groups that oppose conversion therapy; the list includes the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers.

Tavares’s bill would ban conversion therapy by people licensed in Ohio to perform counseling, marriage and family therapy, or social work.

It would ban attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or to efforts “to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.”

It would not affect counseling for a person seeking to transition from one gender to another; counseling that provides acceptance, support and understanding; or intervention to address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.

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