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Louisiana lawmakers shelve a partial ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ kids

Ted Eytan
Trans Pride flags

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have bans on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth, a practice the American Academy of Pediatrics considers ineffective and inhumane.

But Wednesday, a state House committee rejected legislation attempting to add Louisiana to that list.

Capitol Access reporter Paul Braun spoke with WWNO Host Karl Lengel about the debate. Parts of their conversation that were edited from the radio version for time are included in the transcript below.

Karl Lengel: Paul, what was the legislation that was considered in committee today?

Paul Braun: HB605 by Rep. Mandie Landry of New Orleans proposed a limited ban on so-called “conversion therapies” aimed at “curing” LGBTQ youth. Big air quotes around that, because no legitimate medical organization considers “conversion therapy” to be therapeutic and because being queer isn’t something that can be, or should be, “cured.”

I described Landry’s bill as a limited ban because it would only ban the practice among medical professionals. It would not affect religious organizations, which are, frankly, more likely to offer conversion therapies than licensed health care professionals.

Landry and the host of medical professionals, social workers — even some members of the clergy — who spoke in support of the bill detailed the physical and psychological harms that come from the practice.

The big takeaways from their testimony? Most of those who spoke for the bill said conversion therapy had more in common with torture than any kind of medical or psychological care. And they said the practice led LGBTQ youth to feel more alienated from their families and peers, and more likely to engage in self-harm.

KL: But the legislation didn’t make it out of committee. Why was that? 

PB: The legislation faced opposition from some faith groups. Representatives from the Louisiana Baptists Office of Public Policy called the bill “bigotry” against the Christian church.

Again, the bill would not ban religious groups from practicing conversion therapy, it just wouldn’t allow licensed medical professionals or counselors to engage in it.

One lawmaker, Rep. Raymond Crews of Bossier City, said he considered the legislation to be discriminatory because it didn’t include language protecting heterosexual kids from conversion therapy aimed at making them gay. That’s because there is no such thing.

So, many lawmakers had reservations about the change.

The procedure that killed the bill was a little wonky.

A motion to involuntarily defer the bill — which is what a committee uses to unambiguously kill legislation — failed on a 6-7 vote. But minutes later, when the House Health and Welfare Committee voted to send it to the full House for consideration, they were deadlocked at 6 to 6. That kept it in committee and prompted Landry to voluntarily defer the bill, which leaves it in a weird legislative limbo for the rest of the session.

Committee chairmen rarely give bills a second chance, but Landry said she would work with committee members to try to get the support needed to get it to the House floor.

KL: How does the legislation that was rejected today compare to other states’ efforts to ban or limit the practice of conversion therapy?

PB: Well, as you mentioned at the top of the segment, 20 other states have banned conversion therapy.

This is not exclusively liberal policy. Landry’s bill had the support of a couple of Republicans in committee and, around the country, a few Red and Purple states have full bans on the practice — states like Utah, Virginia and Maryland. Cities and municipalities in many other states without statewide bans have taken steps to prohibit the practice.

However, no other states in the Deep South have banned the practice and court rulings have blocked local bans on conversion therapy in three states: Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Something I found interesting: As I was doing research for this chat, I came across a document from the National Conference of State Legislatures, a non-partisan group that tracks the work of state lawmakers across the country. They included bans on conversion therapy on a list of ways state legislatures were addressing a rising tide of suicides across the country.

And to be clear, the NCSL didn’t advocate for those laws, it remains agnostic on all policy issues. But, I think it's telling when a group like the NCSL draws a clear line connecting conversion therapy with suicides in the LGBTQ community.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.