Milford delegation supports move to halt conversion therapy on youths

Milford’s delegation in Hartford is standing behind a bill that would make it illegal to use conversion therapy to try to change the sexual orientation of young homosexuals.

The House of Representatives voted 141 to 8 last week to pass the bill and send it to the Senate for a vote. If Connecticut adopts the ban, it would join a half-dozen states barring conversion therapy.

According to the proposed legislation, conversion therapy means “any practice or treatment administered to a person under 18 years of age that seeks to change the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including, but not limited to, any effort to change gender expression or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward persons of the same gender.”

State Rep. Pam Staneski issued a press release last week expressing her support for the bill.

She, as well as other members of the Milford delegation — Reps. Charles Ferraro, Kim Rose and state Sen. Gayle Slossberg — are all listed as bill co-sponsors.

The bill, HB 6695, An Act Concerning the Protection of Youth from Conversion Therapy, would prohibit any licensed professional from engaging in conversion therapy with a person under the age of 18 in Connecticut. The bill currently has 66 members of the General Assembly as introducers and/or co-sponsors, according to a press release from Staneski’s office.

“I co-sponsored this legislation because I do not believe Connecticut should be condoning or permitting this type of therapy,” Staneski said. “Right now there is an abundance of evidence that shows that conversion therapy may actually cause emotional or physical harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, particularly adolescents or young persons. I cannot in good conscience support a so-called therapy which actually causes loss of sexual feeling, depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.”

Staneski said that according to the American Medical Association, which she said opposes conversion therapy, there are no professional standards or guidelines for how it is conducted.

Rose described the practice as archaic.

“Conversion therapy is a discredited practice that attempts to fix something that isn’t broken and should be a thing of the past,” Rose said. “This bill will go a long way in sending a message that Connecticut does not agree with this archaic approach and unenlightened view of humanity. I was pleased to support the legislation in the House and look forward to it becoming law.”

Six states have already banned conversion therapy on youths, according to various news reports: California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey, and New York.

There have been challenges to the ban in other states, but so far the bans have been upheld. According to Reuters, last week the U.S. Supreme Court left intact California’s ban on “gay conversion,” rejecting a Christian minister’s challenge that the law violates First Amendment religious freedoms.

Many groups have spoken out and condemned conversion therapy, among them the National Center for Lesbian Rights. On its website, the group says, “In the past, some mental health professionals resorted to extreme measures such as institutionalization, castration and electroconvulsive shock therapy to try to stop people from being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).”

“Today, while some counselors still use physical treatments like aversive conditioning, the techniques most commonly used include a variety of behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic and other practices that try to change or reduce same-sex attraction or alter a person’s gender identity. While these contemporary versions of conversion therapy are less shocking and extreme than some of those more frequently used in the past, they are equally devoid of scientific validity and pose serious dangers to patients — especially to minors, who are often forced to undergo them by their parents or legal guardians, and who are at especially high risk of being harmed.”

The National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut, supports the bill, saying, “Conversion therapy treats sexual orientation of being gay or lesbian as a mental illness that needs to be treated in order to ‘cure’ one’s sexual orientation.”

“Conversion therapy is a discriminatory act that is used against gays and lesbians and should not be allowed in Connecticut,” the group says on its website.

The bill proposed in Connecticut would make any conversion therapy practiced by a health care provider “unprofessional conduct” and grounds for disciplinary action.

No public funds would be allowed for practicing conversion therapy or referring a person to a health care provider for conversion therapy.