The growing movement to ban conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, just gained what some might consider an unlikely champion: a Republican lawmaker in New Hampshire.
"You can't convert people's sexuality. I think most people get that," Rep. Eric Schleien told the Associated Press Monday, announcing his plan to introduce a bill that would ban use of the scientifically discredited "therapy" on minors throughout the state. "I think our culture grows stronger when we're able to accept different people's lifestyles and treat people with honor and respect. I don't think that's radical."
If Schleien's bill is successful when he introduces it in the new legislative session beginning in January, New Hampshire would become the sixth jurisdiction to ban what is sometimes called "ex-gay" or "reparative" therapy, which has been denounced by every major medical and psychological organization in the country as ineffective and harmful.
Earlier this year, President Obama and the U.S. surgeon general both denounced the practice as essentially junk science. California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, along with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, introduced federal legislation in May that would ban the practice nationwide, for all ages, labeling the practice's false claims about being able to "pray away the gay" as fraud, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.
In August, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner became the latest state leader to sign into law a bill that bars licensed therapists from subjecting young people to therapy that is designed to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. In May, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a bisexual woman who is the country's first openly LGBT governor, banned the debunked practice in her state, too. These advances followed similar legislation passed in years prior in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and California.
Schleien expects some conservative opposition to the bill, specifically on the grounds of "parental rights or religious liberty," according to the AP.
"We always see backlash when a minority group starts to gain rights," Samantha Ames of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is leading the campaign to ban conversation therapy nationwide through its #BornPerfect campaign, told the AP. "Unfortunately, this particular backlash is falling on our youth."