Republican legislators in New Hampshire have killed a pair of bills which would have made it the 10th state to outlaw conversion therapy.
Two pieces of legislation were put forward in the General Court of New Hampshire to ban the discredited practice, which purports to “change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth. Nearly every leading medical organization in the U.S. has condemned conversion therapy as both ineffective and dangerous for vulnerable young people. It’s often likened to “torture.”
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill failed by a single vote. The tally was 166-165 in the lower body of the General Court and 170-169 in its counterpart; ballots fell predominantly along party lines.
Republican House Speaker Gene Chandler served as the tiebreaker in both deliberations.
Opponents were unconvinced that conversion therapists were operating in New Hampshire. Cornerstone Policy Research, a conservative think tank based in Concord, claimed in a statement that the bill purports to fix a problem the state doesn’t have.
“No youth or parents have ever filed an ethical complaint against a licensed professional counselor in New Hampshire for forcing someone into therapy,” the organization said.
Samuel Brinton, a conversion therapy survivor, disputed this characterization.
“Some argue conversion therapy isn’t happening in New Hampshire, but we at The Trevor Project receive constant calls from youth in crisis,” said Sam Brinton, who now serves as head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, in a statement provided to INTO. “The mere risk of being forced into the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy can be just as harmful as the actual ‘therapy’ itself.”
Others worried that well-intentioned medical professionals could be taken to court for attempting to help clients struggling with their sexuality. Rep. Mark Pearson, a fellow conservative, claimed the bill could prevent counselors from providing necessary assistance to LGBTQ youth.
“Now, I would be against coercive therapy, but what about those who want help from a professional?” the right-wing legislator asked prior to Tuesday’s vote.
The Log Cabin Republicans, which backed the effort, condemned the bills’ narrow defeat.
“The most constructive and effective thing we can do for young people who are struggling with their sexual identity or coming out as gay, is to be as loving and accepting as possible,” said Jennifer Horn and Doug Palardy, co-chairs for the New Hampshire branch of the LGBTQ conservative group, in a press release.
The vote in New Hampshire, which failed to enact a conversion therapy ban two years ago, breaks with the national trend of states moving to block the controversial practice.
Last year, Connecticut, Nevada, and New Mexico all passed bills outlawing any attempt to treat sexual orientation or gender identity as a “curable” condition. California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont already have laws on the books forbidding conversion therapy from being practiced within state lines.
Earlier this week, Broward County, Fla. became the latest municipality to join the movement, prohibiting conversion therapy in a unanimous vote.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the leading advocacy organizations working to outlaw the anti-gay treatment, is hopeful the momentum will continue. Youth Policy Counsel Carolyn Reyes said in a statement provided to INTO that the group will continue fighting to ban conversion therapy in all 50 states.
“New Hampshire’s bill has strong bipartisan support and came extremely close to passing,” said Reyes, who also serves as the coordinator for the Born Perfect campaign. “We are confident that it will pass soon.”