Rhode Island lawmakers propose banning anti-gay therapy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — Proposals working through Rhode Island’s legislature could ban what’s called “conversion therapy,” a practice aimed at changing young people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Bills have been introduced by Democrats in the state Senate and House of Representatives to prohibit psychologists, social workers and other licensed health care professionals from using practices that treat homosexuality as an illness and try to “cure” it in children under 18 years old.

The House bill had its first hearing Wednesday and was held by a health committee for further study. The Senate bill was introduced Wednesday and is awaiting its first hearing.

The House bill’s authors cited a March 2000 statement by the American Psychiatric Association on the topic:

“The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.”

Similar laws exist in several other states, including Vermont, which enacted a ban last year.

It’s not clear if there are any licensed clinicians in Rhode Island who practice conversion therapy.