We at Born Perfect hear every day from survivors seeking legal support. Today’s hearing in the Arizona Senate Committee on Health and Human Services was an attempt to protect those very therapists from ever being held accountable for attempting so-called “conversion therapy.” We applaud those committee members’ vote today against the abuse of Arizona youth.
Witnesses testifying against the bill included openly gay Arizona Democratic Sen. Tony Navarrete; Dr. Matt Salmon, a conversion-therapy survivor and psychiatrist whose Republican father represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives; Born Perfect co-founder Mathew Shurka, whose five years of therapy began at age 16; and Halina Brooke, a therapist and educator in Scottsdale.
Salmon warned that this bill might have protected his conversion therapist’s sexually inappropriate misconduct with him. A Senate committee member agreed, warning that what therapists say and advise minors to do can have a powerful impact and can be subject to abuse, sharing that, as a child, he had actively considered harming himself because of Bible-based beliefs about masturbation.
‘We Go Where the Client Needs to Go’
Therapist Halina Brooke rebutted the claim by another witness that this bill would prevent therapists from talking to clients about their concerns about sexuality and faith.
“[This talk] is already allowed and ethical in our professions. We go where the client needs to go, and that’s already allowed,” Brooke said.
“Implementing this bill would go beyond disaster; it would cause a full-on crisis for the six professions governed by the mental health boards,” Brooke continued. “Government does not have a right to single out specific professions, demand that they make a home for these [abusive] practices, and then insist that they adopt an anything-goes policy in lieu of the standards that keep them accountable.”
“I wholeheartedly agree,” said Ann Ordway, president of the Arizona Counseling Association.
Contrary to opponents’ fears, conversion therapy bans pose no threat to free speech.
Client Protection Doesn’t Harm Free Speech
“Unprofessional speech can be harmful in a professional setting,” Shurka said after the vote. “If a professional is abusing their position and their government license, legitimate therapists and clients need to be protected from that abuse.”
In providing the final vote needed to prevent this dangerous bill from advancing, Republican Tyler Pace said: “This bill does not expressly allow punishment from a board, nor does it expressly give exception for the promotion of violence or bodily harm. … There are other religions that have much harsher language supporting bodily harm.” Pace said the bill combines too many issues under the umbrella of religion.
To date, 20 states, the District of Columbia and more than 85 localities have enacted laws to prevent licensed therapists from performing conversion therapy on minors.
Born Perfect is the leading campaign to end conversion therapy. We are survivors, lawyers, and policy experts working together to protect LGBTQ+ people nationally and around the globe. Born Perfect is a program of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).