SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Arguing that so-called gay conversion therapy helped change their lives, people who say they used to be gay but are now straight testified Tuesday in opposition to an Oregon bill that would bar health professionals from trying to alter a child’s sexual orientation.
The bill would make it illegal for social workers or licensed mental health professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, to practice conversion therapy on children younger than 18. The bill is backed by Basic Rights Oregon, a gay and transgender advocacy group, and has already passed the House.
Similar laws already have been enacted in California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., and in early April, President Barack Obama expressed his support for measures banning the treatments purporting to change a minors’ sexual orientation.
Supporters of the bill say the therapy should be illegal because it can lead to anxiety, depression and destructive behavior. They say the practice is not supported by organizations such as the American Psychological Association, which says it should not be used on minors because it could lead to serious psychological harm.
“The evidence is robust around the degree to which conversion therapy has been thoroughly discredited and debunked,” said Basic Rights Co-Director Jeana Frazzini.
But critics say the bill takes away parental choice and infringes on First Amendment rights.
People who said they had gone through the therapy told the Senate Committee on Human Services and Early Childhood they wanted to change their feelings of homosexuality and the therapy helped. Several supporters of what is called reparative therapy said they had been sexually abused as children and that lead to gender confusion.
“My experience with authentic reparative therapy was nothing short of a marvel. I am who I am and I’ve never been happier today within my gender and sexuality. It worked for me,” said David Pickup, who offers reparative therapy for unwanted sexual attractions in Texas and California.
The Senate committee plans to vote on the measure, HB 2307, Thursday.
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