Metro Weekly

University of Oklahoma professor drafts bill to ban conversion therapy in the state

Bill is expected to be pushed for during the 2019 state legislative session

The Oklahoma Flag waving outside of the Oklahoma State Capitol – Photo: Okiefromokla, via Wikimedia.

A University of Oklahoma professor has drafted a bill to ban therapists from subjecting LGBTQ youth to conversion therapy. That bill is expected to be pushed for during the upcoming 2019 legislative session.

The bill’s author, Sage Mauldin, is an adjunct professor of human relations and an affiliate faculty member of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at OU. Mauldin says the bill is the result of years of research and consultation with survivors of conversion therapy.

“Over the past two years, I’ve had conversations with friends who were subjected to conversion therapy when they were young. They all bear the psychological and emotional scars of conversion therapy,” he told The Norman Transcript. “From a legislative standpoint, the question often was, ‘Why isn’t this banned in Oklahoma?’ That question inspired me to take action.”

The bill is going to be sponsored by Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City), but has yet to be introduced.

Under the provisions of the bill, licensed medical professionals who try to subject youth to efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity would be disciplined and threatened with the loss of their license.

There is currently no scientific evidence proving that conversion therapy is effective, only anecdotal evidence from so-called “ex-gays.”

The American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American School Counselor Association, and National Association of Social Workers have all denounced conversion therapy, arguing that it does not deliver on its promises of actually altering a person’s sexual orientation (rather than the behavior of engaging in same-sex relations) and can have negative effects on people who are subjected to it.

Some of those negative effects include increased risk of depression, self-esteem, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

“Sexual orientation and/or gender identity isn’t something that can be or should be changed,” Mauldin told the Transcript. “As an activist, educator and advocate, my vision is for Oklahoma to be a place where everyone, regardless of identity markers, can live free from discrimination, harassment and violence. By passing this ban, the legislature would ensure LGBTQ youth’s safety and the protection of their rights.”

Currently, 14 states either have outright bans on subjecting youth to conversion therapy or effectively ban it by preventing insurers from reimbursing therapists who engage in the practice.

Mauldin notes that his bill does not apply to people who are not licensed, such as a minister or priest, or those who may be licensed but are acting in a capacity as religious adviser rather than as a therapist.

“I understand the importance of the separation between church and state, so that’s why the bill is not addressing faith-based programs,” he said.

Elizabeth Horn, the director of programming at Freedom Oklahoma, noted that the state’s largest LGBTQ rights organization has long advocated for banning conversion therapy, but declined to comment on the specifics of the legislation until it is officially introduced. The legislature’s new session is slated to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

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

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