The House passed a bill that aims to eliminate the practice of sexual orientation change therapy for minors Thursday afternoon.
House Bill 2451 would ban licensed therapists from using sexual orientation conversion therapy. The bill targets methods meant to make children associate sexual thoughts with pain or other negative experiences, using tactics such as electric shocks or ice water baths.
Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) said one of her friends was forced to undergo shock treatments when she was a teenager until she turned 18 because her parents did not want her to be a lesbian.
“It changed her forever,” she said. “That is the kind of abuse we do not want to see for any child ever.”
The American Psychological Association opposes sexual orientation conversion therapy.
Rep. Maureen Walsh (R-Walla Walla) encouraged her colleagues to vote yes on the bill. Walsh’s 2012 floor speech supporting gay marriage went viral.
“I got thousands of letters, cards, phone calls, emails you name it. They were from all over the world. Many of those who wrote to me were gay kids,” Walsh said. “Many of them stated that they were suicidal because they were not being accepted by their parents. I had more kids ask me to adopt them. They thought I was supermom or something for standing up for my child.”
“There are gay people in this world. and the sooner we recognize that and acknowledge that they are equally as valuable as every one of you heterosexual folks on this floor, the better off we’re going to be,” she said.
Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) encouraged passage of the bill.
“As a Christian person I can’t stand by and idly watch somebody be put through what I would consider a tortuous practice to changing behavior modification,” he said. “I just can’t do that. That’s wrong.”
The bill was passed with an amendment that would exclude nonlicensed religious counselors working for a church or religious denomination and it protects the speech of licensed counselors who are not practicing conversion therapy.
But Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick) remained concerned about violating the first amendment rights of therapists.
“Regulating licensed health care providers is not our business,” Klippert said. He and three others voted against the bill.