HARTFORD, CT — With overwhelming bipartisan support the House forwarded a bill that would ban the use of conversion therapy on youth to the Senate Tuesday.
The House voted 141-8 in favor of banning the practice. Republican Reps. Sam Belsito, Anne Dauphinais, Doug Dubitsky, Craig Fishbein, Mike France, John Fusco, John Piscopo, and Rob Sampson voted against the measure.
Conversion therapy is a practice designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and has been widely discredited by medical professionals.
The American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers and other groups have denounced the practice, saying homosexuality is not a mental disorder and cannot be “cured.”
Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, who is openly gay and a proponent of the legislation, said he was never “broken or in need of being fixed.”
He said no one thinks about being gay “you just are.”
He said the legislation protects LGBTQ youth from this abusive practice.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said there will be some hard votes taken this session, but that this one wasn’t one of them. She said as adolescents everyone endures some type of bullying because they don’t have the right clothes or they are too fat or too skinny. She said the difference is those things can be changed.
“I believe very strongly that we are born the way we are born with the feelings we have,” Klarides said.
She said the fact that there are people who would try to change that “makes me sad.”
Some of the eight Republicans in Klarides’ caucus said they voted against it because they felt it infringed on their rights as parents to do what they believe is best for their children. She said that’s why the bill was amended.
She said the legislation approved Tuesday still allows parents to take their children to therapy or to their priest or rabbi to explore all their feelings.
“It allows those conversations to be had,” Klarides said.
The legislation creates a civil penalty for the practice of conversion therapy if money is exchanged between the parties.
In addition, if a health care provider engages in such therapy, it is considered unprofessional conduct that is subject to disciplinary action by the Department of Public Health or Department of Consumer Protection.
The bill also does not penalize book stores from selling books or videos on conversion therapy. And it seeks to walk a fine line when it comes to religious liberty after informal discussions with the Catholic Church.
Currey said they spoke with the Catholic Church this week and agreed to make some changes because they wanted to ensure they weren’t overstepping anyone’s religious liberties.
Sampson, who was one of eight lawmakers to vote against the bill, said he just doesn’t “think we should be making laws like this especially when we’re interfering with the rights of parents to make decisions for their children.”
“We need to be careful because we are losing are freedoms day-by-day to political correctness,” Sampson said.
Rep. William A. Petit Jr., R-Plainville, a former practicing endocrinologist who voted in favor of the legislation, said sexuality and gender identity are genetically determined and can’t be converted. He said he can’t comment on the legality of the legislation, but he can say definitively that “sexuality and gender identity are genetically determined.”
If approved by the Senate, Connecticut will join six other states and Washington D.C. in banning the practice of conversion therapy.
On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a challenge to a California state law that bans the practice of conversion therapy.