DENVER – For the third year in a row, a bill that would prohibit the practice of sexual orientation conversion therapy on minors is making its way through the state Legislature.
House Bill 1156 was heard by the House Public Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday and passed on a 7-6 party-line vote with Democrats favoring it.
In previous years, similar bills have been approved by the House before dying in a Senate committee, said bill sponsor Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver.
However, with new leadership in the Senate, Rosenthal is hopeful the bill will pass through committee to reach the full chamber. But the results of Tuesday’s committee vote makes its prospects of becoming law questionable.
Rosenthal said HB 1156 is targeted at separating faith practices from science-based medical practice.
“What this bill does is, it reinforces the line between being a person who is a faith leader and a mental health provider,” he said.
The stance has drawn criticism in the past as an attack on religious freedom of faith leaders who are also registered psychiatrists, but Rosenthal said he doesn’t see merit in that reasoning
“I don’t think that’s a good argument because, again, a therapist is acting under the regulations of being a therapist,” he said.
Another past argument that came up again on Tuesday was the potential that the banning of the therapy constituted an attack on free speech as it limited psychiatrists ability to openly converse with their patients as they pursue conversion therapy as a form of treatment.
Conversion therapy is an effort to change sexual orientation that is pursued by some psychologists and is commonly connected to faith groups whose beliefs are at odds with homosexuality.
In 2009, the American Psychological Association conducted a study of available research and concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove that recent conversion therapy practices are capable of changing a person’s sexual orientation.
The APA also concluded that the practice has negative effects on individuals because of the “belief in the hope of sexual orientation change followed by the failure of the treatment,” which can result in distress, depression, negative self-image and increased suicidal thoughts.