Metro Weekly

Hawaii House of Representatives passes conversion therapy ban

Lawmakers added amendments to the bill, sending it to conference to hammer out the differences between versions

Hawaii State Capitol – Photo: Gillfoto, via Wikimedia.

The Hawaii House of Representatives has approved a bill to ban conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation, on youth.

House lawmakers added amendments to the bill to clarify its intent — that banning “sexual orientation change efforts” include attempts to alter a person’s gender identity, gender expression, or gender-nonconforming behaviors.

The amendments also specifically identify which therapists, counselors, or health professionals are prohibited from engaging in conversion therapy. For example, if a person is a licensed therapist or mental health professional but is acting in a role as a spiritual or religious advisor — and not in a professional capacity — they will not be threatened with discipline or the loss of their license.

The bill now heads to conference, where House and Senate lawmakers will hammer out the differences between the bills. Once both chambers agree on a single version, and vote to approve the changes, Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill into law.

“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is nothing short of child abuse with life-threatening consequences for countless LGBTQ youth,” JoDee Winterhof, the senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It is time Hawaii join the growing number of states who are enacting laws to protect LGBTQ youth from this dangerous and discredited practice.”

Eleven states and the District of Columbia currently have statewide laws or regulations that protect youth from being subjected to conversion therapy against their will. Maryland is expected to become the 12th state banning the practice once Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signs a ban into law there. Several municipalities in states without bans have also banned the practice of conversion therapy.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com