Advocates of the conversion therapy ban bills currently in committee in both chambers of the General Assembly gathered yesterday to make a big push for passage. House Bill 5277 and Senate Bill 267 ban the practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth by licensed mental health providers. Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, encompasses a variety of discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
State Senator Donna Nesselbush (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket, North Providence), Representative Edie Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence) and others, including parents of LGBTQ youth, the youth themselves and licensed therapists and medical professionals spoke about the importance of protecting our LGBTQ youth from harmful practices disguised as accepted medical treatment.
After the speaking program, nearly 80 people walked upstairs to the State House offices of Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence, North Providence) and Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) to deliver large laminated petitions signed by hundreds in favor of passing the legislation. Representatives of the Senate President and Speaker met the advocates in the hall to receive the petitions.
During testimony on the bills in committee, dozens testified in favor, only one person spoke against the bills. Committee chairs State Senator Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston, Providence) and Representative Joseph McNamara (Democrat, District 19, Warwick, Cranston) support the bills.
“As a survivor I can attest to the traumatic experience of conversion therapy, ” said Elliot, a survivor of conversion therapy in Rhode island, “At a time of intense vulnerability, it made me feel more damaged, isolated and worthless. It is imperative that Rhode Island youth be protected from these dangerous practices.”
On Monday the US Supreme Court denied an appeal in Welch v Brown, effectively declaring a ban on conversion therapy constitutional. Six states and Washington DC have laws on the books banning conversion therapy.