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Conversion therapy ban introduced in Indiana legislature

Conversion therapy ban introduced in Indiana legislature
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A bill to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy for minors was formally introduced in the Indiana state legislature this week.

Democratic state Sen. J.D. Ford, the first openly LGBTQ legislator in Indiana, authored the bill that would prohibit mental health counselors from using the practice to to alter the sexual orientation or gender identity of people under the age of 18.

The companion bill was introduced at the same time in the Indiana House by state Rep. Sue Errington (D). A similar bill was pushed during the 2019 legislative session but failed to move past the committee stage. 

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“Putting a stop to this harmful and detrimental practice can save the lives of countless LGBTQ Hoosiers. Our state has the chance to end this harmful and detrimental practice this year. A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not a disease that needs cured. In fact, every major medical and mental health organization in our country has condemned the use of ‘conversion therapy’,” Ford said in a statement. “There is no financial risk to our state government for approving this legislation, so why not do this?”

The practice of conversion therapy attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which in the past included methods such as institutionalization, castration and electroshock therapy.

However, medical organizations and experts including the American Medical Association, say "empirical evidence has demonstrated that homosexuality and trans and non-binary gender identities are normal variations of human identity and expression, not inherently linked to mental illness."

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Participants of conversion therapy have reported long-term symptoms including depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviors or substance abuse, according to GLAAD.

Nearly two dozen states have passed laws banning the practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth, including Virginia most recently.

However, most U.S. laws prohibit conversion therapy for minors and/or only applies to licensed health care workers, not religious and spiritual providers that attempt the practice. 

Last month, more than 370 international spiritual leaders called for a global ban on the practice. 

The signatories extend across more than 35 countries and include Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, who is president of the Academy for Jewish Religion in California. 

The Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives organized the declaration, saying it was an effort “to affirm and celebrate the dignity of all, independent of a person's sexuality, gender expression and gender identity.”

“We recognize that certain religious teachings have, throughout the ages, been misused to cause deep pain and offense to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex,” the commission said in a statement. “This must change.”