Louisiana lawmakers split on bill that would ban conversion therapy | Legislature

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Though it doesn’t apply to religious-based “conversion therapy,” a bill that would have banned the controversial practice was stalled Wednesday, largely because of the opposition of conservative Protestants. 

Conversion therapy is the scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations

New Orleans Democratic Rep. Mandie Landry said her House Bill 605 was aimed at treatments rendered by medical providers, who handle about half of the procedures, and not therapies being pushed by some churches wanting to change the sexual orientation of youth who identify as LGBTQ.

“This is not something that works, and on the opposite side, it’s actually extremely harmful for children,” Landry said, adding that the suicide rate is four times higher for LGBTQ youth.

Landry agreed to amend the legislation to allow parents to have say-so over whether or not to use the practice on their minor children.

But with some opponents citing religious reasons, the House Committee on Health and Welfare vote tied at 6-6 on whether to advance the measure to the full House for debate. The legislation will remain in committee but could be brought up again.

After the hearing, Landry said she might ask for another vote.

“This is not an anti-Christian bill. This is a human rights bill,” said state Rep. Joseph Stagni, a Republican Kenner chiropractor who read from the American Medical Association’s strong condemnation that detailed the harms inflicted on patients by conversion practices. Twenty states have banned conversion therapy.

Will Hall, of the Louisiana Baptists Office of Public Policy, said that although many have mischaracterized the practice as relying on electroshock and chemicals, what really happens is widely accepted cognitive behavioral therapy.

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“This is one of the worst pieces of anti-Christian rhetoric, bigotry, that I’ve seen in this body. And it won’t stand muster,” Hall said. “It creates Christian thought as radicalized thought.”

Baton Rouge lawyer Sue Raborn, who testified that HB605 would discriminate against her religious beliefs as a Christian parent, dismissed as “liberals” the two Presbyterian ministers who testified in support of the ban. The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops hasn’t taken a position on the issue.

“What you’re doing is saying that a Christian counselor or a Christian psychologist is all of a sudden violating the law if they try to explain the tenets of the Christian faith to the child and try to get their child to understand, up to the age of 18, what is the duty of man towards God,” Raborn said. “I don’t think it legally flies anywhere and especially with the law of the Lord.”

Bossier City Republican Rep. Raymond Crews said the legislation was discriminatory because heterosexuals could be subjected to therapy aimed at changing their sexual orientation.

“It eliminates a whole class here,” Crews said. “This is a restriction of free speech.”

Crews noted that 29 states — including all the nearby ones in the South — haven’t adopted a ban.

House Health & Welfare Committee members voting against banning conversion therapy (6): Chair Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall; Reps Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City; Julie Emerson, R-Carencro; Wayne McMahen, R-Minden; Thomas Pressly IV, R-Shreveport; and Christopher Turner, R-Ruston.

Voting for HB605 (6): Reps. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans; C. Travis Johnson, D-Vidalia; Ed Larvadain III, D-Alexandria; Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas; Larry Selders, D-Baton Rouge; and Joseph Stagni, R-Kenner. 



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