State legislators are considering a bill that would ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youths in Connecticut.
The state Assembly’s Public Health Committee introduced House Bill 6695, which is co-sponsored by 89 state representatives and senators, this January. The legislation defines conversion therapy as any treatment given to someone under 18 years old to change that person’s sexual or gender identity. Under the bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, health care providers who practice conversion therapy would be subject to disciplinary action, including license revocation, said state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg ’78, D-Westport, co-chair of the joint standing committee.
“It’s very unusual to get so many co-sponsors and even more unusual to get so many co-sponsors from both parties,” he said. “[This bill is] something that just about everybody agrees with.”
LGBTQ activists in the state have also endorsed the bill, which has been filed with the Legislative Commissioner’s Office and is currently still in committee. Alberto Cifuentes, the professional development and community outreach coordinator and co-chair at Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Connecticut, said his organization is a part of CT Equality, a coalition of LGBTQ rights groups advocating for the bill.
The group has encouraged Connecticut residents to call their representatives in favor of the bill, he said. And Maria Trumpler, director of Yale’s Office of LGBTQ Resources, said the office hosted a testimony writing event before spring break to support the bill.
Steinberg said there is really no such thing as “conversion therapy,” as science has demonstrated that it does not work. Cifuentes said it is a common misconception that conversion therapy is not practiced in the state, as the CT Equality coalition is aware of at least four licensed therapists who perform the treatment, which is detrimental to psychological health.
Cifuentes said there has been recent backlash against LGBTQ rights and visibility in the United States, and Steinberg expressed concern that there has been a national backslide in civil rights.
“We should never take for granted our rights, and we should be prepared to defend them,” he said.
He added that bills with bipartisan support such as HB 6695 are good opportunities for dialogue between parties before addressing more controversial topics such as the state’s budget.
Steinberg said legislators had to decide whether to include protections for autistic patients, who are sometimes treated with electroshock therapy, in the bill, as the issue came up during public testimony. The House decided to wait until the next session to address that issue.
David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, also submitted testimony in support of HB 6695. In the statement, he called conversion therapy a “dangerous and discredited” practice rejected by national leaders in mental health.