Washington is poised to outlaw conversion therapy after a bill banning the discredited anti-LGBTQ practice passed its House of Representatives on Thursday.
The lower house of the state legislature voted in favor of Senate Bill 5722 by a nearly two-thirds margin following strong support for the legislation on both sides of the aisle. Sixty-two lawmakers, including 12 Republicans, cast their vote in favor of the bill, which would classify any attempt to “change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth as “unprofessional conduct.” Just 36 legislators opposed it.
The same was true when SB 5722 passed the Senate in January by a vote of 32 to 16. Six Republicans broke ranks to support the legislation.
Not all conservatives have been willing to get on board, however.
“We should not take away the ability for any individual to seek the treatment that they may choose, or that their parents may choose for them to have,” said Republican Sen. Shelly Short during debate on the Senate floor in January.
But proponents of the bill say parents shouldn’t have the ability to subject minors to treatment which is ineffective and has been likened to torture.
Sen. Marko Liias filed the bill after previous versions were killed by conservative opposition in 2014 and 2015. He believes the legislation is necessary to prevent minors from being subjected to treatment which has been universally condemned by every leading U.S. medical group, including the American Psychological Association and American Counseling Association.
“It is barbaric to deny young people their identity and we have an obligation to protect our children from so-called ‘conversion therapy,” Liias told Seattle’s KCPQ in January.
Should Gov. Jay Inslee sign SB 5722 into law, Washington will become the 10th state to outlaw conversion therapy. The practice is already illegal in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as a handful of counties and cities across the United States.
Most recently, a bill banning conversion therapy passed in upstate New York’s Erie County after unanimous approval. It was named for Vice President Mike Pence, who is widely believed to be a supporter of the practice, a claim he denies.
Inslee told reporters in February he would be willing to sign SB 5722, but it must first head back to the Senate for concurrence before it reaches his desk.
LGBTQ advocates cheered the bill’s probable passage.
“No child should be put through the abusive practice of so-called conversion therapy,” said Human Rights Campaign National Field Director Marty Rouse in a statement. “This outdated and dangerous practice has been rejected by medical professionals and has resulted in life-threatening consequences for countless LGBTQ youth.”
“With the knowledge that tens of thousands of LGBTQ youth are at risk of conversion therapy in the next few years, the Washington legislature has decided to put politics behind them and protect our youth,” added Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, in an email to INTO. “LGBTQ youth in Washington are being reminded that they are not alone and that they never have to change something they never chose.”
Carolyn Reyes, youth policy counsel for National Center for Lesbian Rights, claimed the bipartisan support for SB 5722 “sets an example for the rest of the country.”
“We are heartened by the progress made by legislators to uphold the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ individuals in Washington state,” said Reyes, who is also a coordinator for the Born Perfect campaign. “We know that few practices hurt LGBTQ youth more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through the debunked practice of conversion therapy.”
SB 5722 is likely to be signed into law by the end of the year.
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