Conversion therapy tried before in Iowa, passed Senate on strictly partisan vote, died in Republican-controlled House

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Iowa Democrats have attempted to ban conversion therapy in the past. In 2015, the Iowa Senate voted 26-24 to ban sexual orientation change efforts (conversion therapy) on LGBT minors.

That legislation died in the Republican-controlled House, however.

Senate File 334 defined sexual orientation change efforts as “any practice by a mental health provider that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or gender identity or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

However, counseling or therapy that provides acceptance, support and understanding of the individual or facilitation of an individual’s coping, social support and identity exploration and development was not going to be banned.

The bill made it illegal for a mental health provider to engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years old.

Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) managed the bill on the floor of the Iowa Senate. He said the bill would protect minors from being subjected to so-called sexual-orientation change efforts that attempt to change who they are as human beings.

Former State Sen. Matt McCoy, an open homosexual, called conversion therapy the worst kind of child abuse that ever occurred in the history of gay and lesbian individuals in America. He said conversion therapy has a “dark history.”

While he noted in the past some mental health professionals resorted to institutionalization, castration or electroshock therapy to stop people from being gay, bisexual or transgender, he said in 2015 a current group practicing conversion therapy encouraged hypnosis, behavior and cognitive therapies and sex therapies and psychiatric medications.

“This practice has been discredited,” he said.

McCoy noted that Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the exact same bill in New Jersey. Christie reportedly said the health risks of trying to change a child’s sexual orientation outweigh concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice.

McCoy finished his remarks by urging his colleagues to “stand on the right side of history.”

Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola) spoke against the legislation. He said he served on the subcommittee and did not recall any evidence brought before the subcommittee that showed some of the very extreme procedures McCoy talked about were happening in Iowa.

“I would question that,” he said. “But the most important point here is, in my view, the question of choice. There may be parents and minors who desire this kind of counseling, and should we deprive them of that choice? Particularly if they want to go to a licensed professional?

“So we’re proposing to pass a law that if you want that kind of counseling, you can’t go to a licensed professional. So, I’m going to vote no. I think we ought to leave this choice up to the parents and the minors involved. People that don’t want this counseling, they don’t have to do it. If they do want it, it should be their right.”

Bolkcom said conversion therapy should be up to the individual person.

“This bill would essentially prevent the therapist from basically guiding that conversation to a predetermined point,” he said. “For example, I’m heterosexual and I’d hate to go to a therapist who wanted to try to convert me to be gay.”

Bolkcom said minors are more vulnerable than adults and not as prepared for that therapy.

“We want our professional therapists to help their clients, but not lead them down a predetermined path to an outcome that may be harmful to that young person,” he said. “We as adults have the responsibility to protect our kids from fraudulent therapies that harm and damager their development and success. The clear message this legislation sends to all Iowans, but especially our kids is, being gay is OK.”

The Iowa Standard is a free online news source so we can reach as many people as possible. But we need to raise money! We are asking our readers to help support us as a news alternative entering 2020. If you could, please consider showing a sign of support to The Iowa Standard by making a contribution here.  Or, you can use Venmo and make a contribution to @Iowa-Standard-2018. 

You could also send a check to:
PO Box 112
Sioux Center, IA 51250

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall