Oklahoma Pro-Conversion “Therapy” Bill Dies on State House Floor

(Oklahoma City, OK, May 12, 2015)—This afternoon, a bill introduced to the Oklahoma State House by Representative Sally Kern that would legalize anti-LGBT therapy died without coming to a vote. The defeat follows months of extensive grassroots organizing by national and state organizations working in coalition to educate parents and families about the ineffective and harmful practices of conversion therapy on LGBT youth.

HB 1598 aimed to legitimize conversion therapy by providing special state protections for practices which have been denounced by every major medical and mental health association in the country, including the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association. The bill is the first of its kind in the United States.

“It is not often that we can say defeating a piece of legislation actually saved lives, but with HB 1598, that is exactly what happened,” said Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson. “The fact that this bill would have removed oversight and prohibited state intervention into extreme forms of child abuse was unconscionable. We owe a debt of gratitude to the fair-minded legislators who refused to allow it to even get a vote on the house floor.”

“Stopping this bill was an incredibly important victory for LGBT youth in Oklahoma,” added HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “So-called conversion ‘therapy’ uses fear and shame, telling young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are. Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention.”

National Center for Lesbian Rights Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Sam Ames concluded: “Today’s victory is one more nail in the coffin of the conversion therapy industry. The people of Oklahoma have defeated a hateful and dangerous bill that would have put LGBT children’s lives at risk. While we have made unprecedented progress in recent years, it is clearer than ever that the conversion therapy industry will not go down without a fight. NCLR intends to see that fight through until the day all children, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, know they were born perfect.”

HRC and NCLR have partnered with state equality groups to pass state legislation to end this dangerous practice, including laws passed in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. In August of 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s ban which was signed into law by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. In September of this year, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey’s ban which was signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Christie in August of 2013. NCLR attorneys have assisted in the defense of every state bill to date.

Freedom Oklahoma is Oklahoma’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization and a proud member of the Equality Federation. Freedom Oklahoma is the unified organization resulting from the merger of The Equality Network, a 501(c)4 organization that lobbies for pro-equality legislation and public policies; and the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization that engaged in public education in support of the LGBT community.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.