An Oklahoma House Committee has voted to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City), would ban licensed therapists and mental health providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ minors.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Health Services and Long Term Care approved the measure on a bipartisan 10-4 vote, moving it to the floor of the Republican-controlled House for a vote of all the chamber’s members. The bill’s successful passage out of committee marks the first time that conservative lawmakers have expressed for a pro-LGBTQ bill, let alone one that bans conversion therapy.
Dunnington celebrated the milestone on Twitter, writing: “When I first ran for office six years ago I made a commitment to be a voice for all Oklahomans. Today, with bipartisan support we passed a bill out of committee to protect LGBTQ youth from the harms of Conversion Therapy. We are better together.”
When I first ran for office six years ago I made a commitment to be a voice for all Oklahomans. Today, with bipartisan support we passed a bill out of committee to protect LGBTQ youth from the harms of Conversion Therapy. We are better together. #OneOklahoma #OneStepAtaTime
— Rep Jason Dunnington (@jdunnington) February 13, 2020
Dunnington later expressed confidence that his fellow lawmakers would “do the right thing” and pass the bill in order to protect vulnerable LGBTQ youth.
The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ group that seeks to combat youth suicide and has been involved in the push to ban conversion therapy in all 50 states, called on lawmakers to pass the bill.
“For the first time in state history, Oklahoma lawmakers have taken an affirmative vote to protect LGBTQ Oklahomans,” Troy Stevenson, the campaign manager for The Trevor Project’s “50 Bills, 50 States” campaign, said in a statement. “We hope other conservative states follow suit because protecting our youth is not a partisan issue.
“The Trevor Project regularly hears from youth who have been hurt by misguided efforts to change who they are,” Stevenson added. “Legislation like Rep. Dunnington’s bill will make a real difference in what it means to be an LGBTQ young person growing up in Oklahoma and work to save lives.”
Conversion therapy has been opposed and deemed ineffective by most major medical and mental health organizations, and has been linked to higher rates of depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation.
According to The Trevor Project’s 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health, LGBTQ youth who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who had not. In total, 42% of LGBTQ youth overall, and 57% of transgender or nonbinary youth, who were subjected to conversion therapy reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months.
Allis Shinn, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, called the committee vote a “major step forward” for the state’s LGBTQ community.
“We have a long way to go, but we are heartened today by the committee members who voted in favor of protecting our youth, and moving Oklahoma one step closer to a place that is welcoming to all who call this state home,” Shinn said.
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