State bill would ban therapists from practicing gay conversion therapy

A bill to ban so-called “gay conversion therapy” in Washington was introduced in the state Senate Health Committee on Thursday.  The therapy is defined as an attempt by a licensed therapist to change the gender identity or sexual orientation of anyone under age 18.

Democratic Sen. Marko Lias, of Lynnwood, testified about a family that regretted sending its 14-year-old gay son to conversion therapy.

“Danni was in the circumstance of having rubber bands on his wrist and rocks in his shoes to teach him that who he was and who he was becoming was wrong,” Lias said.

Lias' bill would list conversion therapy on anyone under 18 as “unprofessional conduct” under the existing Uniform Disciplinary Act, which is regulated by the Department of Health.

The city of Seattle banned conversion therapy in 2016.  At the hearing Thursday, Republican Sen. Randi Becker, of Eatonville, asked if conversion therapy is already outlawed statewide.

“That this bill is already attempting to prohibit actions under child abuse laws statutes in our state,” Becker said.

While child abuse laws carry criminal penalties, Lias said many health organizations support taking it a step further.  This bill allows the Department of Health to restrict or revoke a health care provider's license for doing conversion therapy.

“It's time in Washington to take concrete action,” Lias said.  “To protect children from these monstrous and dehumanizing actions.”

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