OKLAHOMA CITY (February 23, 2015)—Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and Freedom Oklahoma condemned an extreme anti-LGBT Oklahoma bill that attacks Oklahoma children and seeks to legitimize so-called “conversion therapy,” the dangerous and discredited practices linked to lifelong damage including depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. The bill is backed by anti-LGBT State Rep. Sally Kern and will be the subject of a public hearing on Tuesday in the House Committee on Children, Youth, and Family Services, which is also chaired by Rep. Kern.
The “Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act (HB 1598)” attempts to legitimize and provide special state protections for the ineffective and harmful practice of conversion therapy, which has 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.
HRC and NCLR will submit written testimony to the committee highlighting the dangers and consequences of the bill.
Representatives from HRC, NCLR, and Freedom Oklahoma issued the following statements:
“Rep. Kern’s assault on LGBT youth in Oklahoma is shockingly reprehensible,” said 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, and for Rep. Kern to use her stature to tell young people that who they are is bad or wrong, is both immoral and seriously harmful.”
Added NCLR staff attorney and #BornPerfect campaign coordinator Sam Ames: “Rep. Kern’s proposal to legalize the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy on LGBT children is appallingly irresponsible. All children deserve to be loved, accepted, and supported by their communities. Every day, we work with parents and families who deeply regret the anguish they caused their children by forcing them to try and change who they are. This horrifying bill is a wake-up call for Oklahoma and the entire country. There is no place in our communities for these ineffective and harmful practices, which have been condemned by every major medical and mental health association in the country. No child deserves to be told that they were born anything but perfect.”
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is an abuse of the term therapy, and it is abuse in no uncertain terms,” added Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson. “Every reputable medical and physiological association in the nation has come out against this torturous quackery. To be crystal clear, Rep. Kern’s bill – HB 1598 – is an attempt to promote and support child abuse. It would create a special privileged class of abuse with no oversight, regulation, or avenue for protection. We are calling on all fair-minded Oklahomans to speak out. We have a duty to protect our young people, not to promote a dangerous pseudo-science that leads to suicide and depression.”
Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts,” is a range of dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Young LGBT people are particularly at risk of being hurt by these practices, which, in addition to depression and suicide, have been linked to substance abuse, unsafe sex, and isolation.
HRC and NCLR are working closely with state equality groups to pass state legislation to end conversion therapy, 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.
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.