If nothing else, New Hampshire lawmaker Bob Giuda gets points for originality.
The Republican state senator was one of 10 legislators who voted against a bill banning conversion therapy in The Granite State on Thursdaywhich passed despite his opposition.
While many of Guida’s colleagues were concerned House Bill 587 would infringe on the rights of faith-based entities to religious freedom, the former Marine had a novel complaint about the bill. He complained during Senate debate that the proposal doesn’t prevent gays from converting young people to homosexuality.
“It’s all pushing toward one direction,” the Grafton lawmaker said. “Let’s make this objective, because there is conversion therapy that goes the other way. We’ve allowed a certain segment to define conversion, but conversion goes both ways.”
Arguing that “nothing in this bill [is] fair,” Guida added: “This is all one-sided. That’s not a good bill.”
The conservative’s grievances weren’t enough to prevent HB 587 from sailing through the Senate by a 14 to 10 margin. Like a nearly identical bill killed in the House earlier this year, the legislation would prevent medical professionals from offering discredited gay “cure” therapy to LGBTQ youth.
An amended version would later pass the lower house of the legislature, meaning that any differences between the two bills must be hashed out in conference before heading to the governor’s desk.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has already pledged to sign any conversion therapy ban that comes his way.
Advocates in favor of HB 587 referred to orientation change effortswhich have been condemned by every leading U.S. medical associationas a “backward, barbaric practice aimed to scare the gay away.”
“We need to call it what it is,” claimed Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn (D-Whitefield).
A growing list of organizations have come out against conversion therapy, calling it harmful and ineffective at its purported goal. Groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, Mental Health America, American Medical Women’s Association, and Voice for Adoption have backed efforts to ban the treatment of gender identity or sexual orientation as a remediable condition.
“The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior,” claimed the American Psychiatric Association in a 2000 position paper.
“Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction,” the organization continued. “The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.”
Conversion therapy includes everything from talk therapy to shock treatment and aversion techniquessuch as forcing patients to snap their wrists with rubber bands when they have “impure” thoughts.
Republicans were, however, able to force through an amendment providing religious exemptions in regards to certain forms of orientation change. HB 587 permits faith-based entities to offer “talk therapy or religious counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding.”
“We’re trying to protect counselors to be able to do the very hard work of helping people who are going through issues that a lot of us have never been through,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) on Thursday.
As California advances a landmark bill outlawing conversion therapy on both LGBTQ youth and adults, advocates celebrated the growing movement.
“No child should be put through the dangerous and inhumane practice of conversion therapy,” said Human Rights Campaign Legislative Counsel Xavier Persad in a statement. “This abusive practice has no basis in science and is uniformly rejected by every major mental health organization in the country.”
“It is time for New Hampshire to join the growing number of states enacting laws to protect LGBTQ youth from so-called conversion therapy,” he added.
Currently, 10 states have passed statewide legislation prohibiting orientation change efforts from being practiced on queer and trans youth. These include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.