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Washington (State)

Bill to prohibit conversion therapy on LGBT youth passes Washington House

Friday, February 14, 2014
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OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state House on Thursday approved a bill aimed at prohibiting health care providers from performing controversial gay-to-straight conversion therapy on LGBT youth.

Washington state capitol in Olympia.

Washington state capitol in Olympia.

House Bill 2451, which passed on a 94-4 vote, would make it an act of “unprofessional conduct” to try to change the sexual orientation of a patient under 18. That would include efforts to change behaviors, gender expressions or to reduce sexual or romantic attractions toward people of the same sex.

Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said regardless of personal beliefs, all youth should be protected.

“As a Christian person, I can’t stand by and watch someone be put through a tortuous practice to change a behavior,” he said.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins spoke of a friend who was institutionalized and given shock treatments as a teenager after telling her parents she was a lesbian.

“This bill is about recognizing human dignity of all our kids,” said Jinkins, a Democrat from Tacoma.

The measure would fall under the Uniform Disciplinary Act, which includes acts of unprofessional conduct such as negligence, dishonesty, misuse of drugs or alcohol and betrayal of practitioner-patient privilege. Disciplinary authorities could sanction a health-care provider found to be engaging in gay conversion efforts.

Sanctions could range from a fine to probation to mandatory remedial education to license revocation.

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Psychotherapies providing “acceptance, support and understanding” would be exempt from the measure. It also would not apply to speech, religious practices or counseling not considered efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Similar restrictions have been enacted in California and New Jersey, but the California ban was placed on hold earlier this month after the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted opponents’ request for a stay while they seek a Supreme Court review.

Lawmakers in Maryland, Minnesota and New York have also introduced legislation to prohibit the use of conversion therapy, also referred to as reparative therapy, on LGBT youth. Massachusetts and Pennsylvania’s lawmakers introduced similar measures last year.

A bill in Virginia was defeated by a House committee.

The Washington bill now heads to the Senate.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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