Oklahoma state representative to sponsor bill banning conversion therapy

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma lawmaker says he plans to sponsor a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), sexual orientation conversion therapy refers to counseling and psychotherapy to attempt to eliminate individuals’ sexual desires for members of their own sex.

Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma told News 4 he plans to sponsor a bill banning this in Oklahoma. It was drafted by Sage Mauldin, a professor at the University of Oklahoma.

“The practice of trying to change a child’s sexual orientation has a history of negative consequences. Including but not limited to depression, suicide, feeling dehumanized, self loathing, self harm, loss of friends, guilt, and hopelessness,” Rep. Dunnington said. “When discussing a ban on Conversion Therapy for children under the age of 18, it’s important not to get stuck debating the definition of conversion and making sure we are protecting children from unnecessary abuse.”

Troy Stevenson, formerly with Freedom Oklahoma, has worked on pieces of legislation like this in other states.

“It damages kids. Basically, it’s a parent taking their kid to somebody and telling them that they’re something wrong about who they intrinsically are,” Stevenson said. “I’ve worked with young people throughout the country who have been survivors of this. It not only causes anxiety and depression, it stays with them their entire lives, and it’s not just anxiety. It’s self harm in many cases.”

In 2015, the APA applauded former President Barack Obama’s call to end the use of therapies intended to change sexual orientation.

“So-called reparative therapies are aimed at ‘fixing’ something that is not a mental illness and therefore does not require therapy,” says APA 2015 President Barry S. Anton. “There is insufficient scientific evidence that they work, and they have the potential to harm the client.”

News 4 spoke with David Pickup, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Dallas, Texas where he owns a private practice. Pickup said he has treated clients from Oklahoma.

“Reintegration therapy is the new name for reparative therapy. I’m talking about the trademark term,” he said. “Unless it’s the specific therapy that really does work for individuals with unwanted same sex attractions, then it’s not real therapy.”

Pickup, who has been interviewed by CNN‘s Brooke Baldwin and Elizabeth Cohen on the very topic, said 95 percent of his current clients are boys and men, primarily between the ages of 15 and 29. He argued this bill could be harmful.

“It doesn’t take into account the many people who deal with unwanted same sex attractions. It takes their rights away,” he said. “Can you even imagine a sexually abused 10-year-old, 12-year-old who is heterosexual, who’s been sexually molested by a pedophile- which happens unfortunately…even in Oklahoma also obviously in Texas, pretty much every state…he comes into my office… he says look sexual feelings that were produced by this sexual abuser unwanted, this is how this is caused, and according to that law…I can tell him well, yeah, change is possible, but I can’t do it because it’s illegal?”

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