Legislature considering ban on gay conversion therapy for children

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by ABBEY GIBB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 12:26 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 18 at 10:25 AM

SEATTLE-- Washington state law makers could make a landmark decision, calling homosexual conversion therapy illegal.  Washington would be just the third state to do so.

Conversion therapy is geared toward changing children from gay to straight and can range from intense shaming sessions to physical pain like electric shock and water baths.  Although experts estimate not many therapists still use this type of therapy in Washington, supporters of House bill 2451, said that's a few too many.
 
"What that does to your head, to think there's only one way of being, that's damaging and to some point that's even child abuse," said Manny Santiago, 35.
 
As an older teen, Santiago endured weekly conversion therapy sessions with a pastor. "He would tell me, 'That's sick. God vomits when two men have sex. You're hurting your family, you're hurting yourself," he added.
 
That pain led Santiago to the Washington State House floor last week in support of bill 2451.
 
"Knowing that I could not change who I was, many times I thought of ending my life.  Those emotional scars are still healing," he said.
 
Bill sponsor, former representative, now State Sen. Marko Liias (D-Edmonds) said, "sexual orientation change efforts are ineffective and dangerous and we should make them an unprofessional practice."
 
Rep. Richard DeBolt (R- Chehalis) asked Liias how the bill would affect patients who want therapy options to become straight.
 
"Maybe they want to not have this orientation, maybe it's something they can't handle right now and they can't get counseling.  I don't understand  why we would cut off an avenue for them," said Rep. DeBolt.
 
The bill passed with just four opposed, now it's headed to the Senate.
 
Santiago said it doesn't surprise him the therapy is still legal, but to him, not doing something is what's criminal.
 
"It surprises you when you think the bubble where you live is the only thing that exists.  Outside of King County, it's very conservative."
 
Recent studies have shown this therapy to be ineffective and can give long term side effects.  If it passes, these therapists could lose their license.

 

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