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February 7, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Ban on therapy to change child’s sexual orientation moves forward

OLYMPIA – A Washington State House panel this week unanimously backed banning medical therapy aimed at changing a child’s sexual orientation, a surprising outcome given concerns expressed by Republicans last month.

It is unclear whether the bill will get support in the GOP-controlled state Senate, but the unanimous House committee vote will certainly help.

The GOP committee members signed onto House Bill 2451 after negotiating an amendment to make clear that religious-based counseling would still be OK.

For licensed health-care providers, the bill would make it “unprofessional conduct” to perform sexual orientation change efforts on a patient under 18.

Two other states, California and New Jersey, have similar laws. But the idea was thought to not have much chance in Washington state, where a proposal last year to study the issue failed in even the Democrat-controlled House.

This year, the bill sponsored by then-Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo (he has since moved to the Senate) got an uneven reception in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee. Democrats expressed support, but Republicans expressed concerns.

By Wednesday, however, those concerns had apparently disappeared.

“There are times when you’re a legislator that you learn a lot, and this is one of those issues where we all learned a lot,” said state Rep. Joe Schmick, of Colfax, the ranking Republican on the committee.

Schmick said he and others “didn’t realize the abuses that were taking place out in the public.”

The bill passed 17-0.

If it passes on the House floor, as is expected, the bill will go to the Senate.

State Sen. Randi Becker, an Enumclaw Republican who runs the Senate health care committee, has said she will give the proposal a hearing.

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: California, Joe Schmick, Marko Liias

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