At Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing on banning conversion therapy for minors in Iowa, the conversation started with Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) saying most ideas deserve the opportunity to be debated.
“If somebody comes to me and puts up a good reason, whether I agree with it or not, it’s more than likely going to get a study bill and a subcommittee,” he said. “I believe that’s the best way that this Capitol should work, is that all ideas get hearings like this.”
Not all Republican districts are created equal. I live in a Republican district that is as deep red as any in the state. Kaufmann, meanwhile, is the rare Republican representing Johnson County.
So, I get it. He has his folks to represent.
Thankfully I can just write what I believe to be true. And the truth is, that subcommittee was very bad for people of faith, parents and Iowa children.
GLBT Youth In Iowa Schools Task Force (which goes by the name Iowa Safe Schools, which is its fictitious name) started out the conversation by claiming conversion therapy bans are a bipartisan issue. The first ban was signed by former Gov. Chris Christie.
Yes, this Chris Christie. The Chris Christie who is such a Republican stalwart that he finished 10th in the Iowa Caucus in 2016.
Again, all Republicans are not created equal. And Chris Christie isn’t held up as a standard for Republicans by any serious conservative.
This bill, mind you, was going to ban talk therapy as well. Well, only talk that attempted to change someone from homosexual to heterosexual. If a health care professional is willing to affirm someone’s homosexual orientation or gender identity, then it’s still perfectly fine (yes, that seems like viewpoint discrimination).
This is where Damian Thompson, the public policy manager at GLBT Youth In Iowa Schools Task Force and former employee in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office, said conversion therapy is “physical and emotional abuse.”
That assertion received zero pushback from any legislator.
And the hits kept coming. The National Association of Social Workers said the bill shouldn’t just go after licensed providers, but also people who are not licensed (not sure who those would be — parents?). Denise Rathman, who represented the group, said a social worker responds to a client’s request for reducing same-sex attraction by providing research and information about the lack of effectiveness, harm caused and ethical concerns with conversion therapy.
“Suggesting clients can change their sexual orientation or gender identity is not supported by the research,” she added.
Again, another assertion that neither Republican legislator pushed against.
Keenan Crow with One Iowa Action said conversion therapy is a “discredited practice, a fraudulent practice.”
Again, no resistance from any Republican legislator.
Connie Ryan said one of her biggest concerns with the bill is the religious exemption.
“We believe that conversion therapy is child abuse,” she said. “When you put in language that exempts an entire group of people, you’re really saying in your opinion it is OK for child abuse to happen and we very much disagree with that opinion.”
Again, that statement went unchallenged.
Leslie Carpenter said she too has concerns about exempting religious folks.
“There’s a fair amount of ignorance out there about mental illness and a lot of ignorance about these issues,” she said. “Allowing them not to be liable for counseling children, perhaps incorrectly, terrifies me.”
And it was Mascher who said she is not supportive of religious exemptions, calling it “state-sanctioned child abuse.”
“We do a lot of damage to children when we try to change them,” Mascher said. “For that reason, I can’t support this version of the bill.”
Instead, Mascher wants a complete ban.
“It’s not effective, it doesn’t work and it is absolutely abusive,” she said.
Conversion therapy, which let’s just call it what it is, the idea that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be reformed, took a beating.
And while representatives from The FAMiLY Leader, Concerned Women of America and Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition did a good job of defending it, there was zero defense from any legislator.
Republican Joe Mitchell, from Mount Pleasant, said he thinks lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights and issues “should be bipartisan.”
“That’s why we’re here discussing this topic and that’s why Rep. Kaufmann and myself thought that this was a good idea to have this subcommittee to be able to have this discussion and get consensus from all of you,” he said. “Obviously there’s work to do. I just think it’s important we’re recognizing the bipartisan manner and how we should act dealing with these issues.”
Kaufmann thanked GLBT Youth In Iowa Schools Task Force for working with him on the proposal and educating him about the issue. GLBT Youth In Iowa Schools Task Force had the horribly inappropriate conference just a handful of years ago and was responsible for Iowa becoming the first state in the nation to fly the transgender flag over the Capitol late last year.
“The main objective I wanted to achieve today has been achieved,” he said. “We’re having a public subcommittee where all sides of this issue, psychiatrists, mental health professionals, social workers, religious organizations, LGBT organizations can all come and be in the same room and we’re all having a civil conversation about conversion therapy. This is a good thing.”
While Kaufmann killed the bill, he publicly pledged to continue work on the issue.
“I’m not saying it’s flawless,” Kaufmann said. “I’m not saying this should become law as is. I recognize problems and changes that would need to be made, but that is where this started was Utah. I will take all of the suggestions under advisement. I’m going to pledge to publicly continue to work on this issue, to continue to have these conversations so that everybody, no matter what side you’re on, feels like you have a voice in crafting this conversation.
Here is what was said – conversion therapy is child abuse. Religious people should not have the right to seek help from licensed health care providers for their kids. Religious people should not be able to provide help to kids confused by the indoctrination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender curriculum and movement in schools.
And finally, sexuality cannot change. Gender identity cannot change (that argument alone seems to fly in the face of the idea that gender is fluid, doesn’t it).
The idea that sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be changed is inaccurate. It can. I know people who have experienced change in that area of their life. There are groups that are working to let legislators know they exist.
I have made it this far without bringing the Bible into it, but it’s closing time and I can think of no better final argument.
In order to reject the notion that sexual orientation and gender identity cannot change, one has to reject the Bible.
After listing off a list of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, which included men who have sex with men, 1 Corinthians 6:11 states:
“And that is what some you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
If there are physically abusive forms of “therapy” happening in Iowa, ban them. Nobody defends those. But nobody can point to any examples of them either. Not one single police report. Not one single lawsuit.
Banning conversion therapy for minors is an attack on religion, parental rights and Republican principles. It isn’t a conversation worthy of a Republican-led legislature.