Bill banning conversion therapy passes House committee, moves into full House

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - A bill that would ban conversion therapy is making its way to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for a vote.

The bill defines conversion therapy as any practice or treatment that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Advocates of the bill say it's to protect LGBTQ youth from a harmful practice.

The American Psychological Association has discredited the practice, saying there's not enough evidence to show it works. Instead, the association argues that it can hurt people.

"When the medical community says, 'Look, this thing hurts children,' then we have an obligation to make sure people aren't subjected to it," Allie Shinn, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said.

Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-OKC), who introduced the bill, says 42 percent of young people forced into conversion therapy try to commit suicide.

"What we know is that kids who are forced into this practice-- that does not work-- are then moving to attempts on their life, have history of depression, history of substance abuse. These are the reasons why we needed to step forward and put these protections in place," he said.

David Pickup, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Dallas, practices reintegrative therapy, which he says helps those struggling with unwanted homosexuality.

He tells KFOR the term "conversion therapy" is libelous and connotes "pray away the gay," electroshock, and shaming clients.

"Can you imagine, a boy, a minor, coming into a therapist's office who wants reintegrative therapy because he knows his homosexual feelings are caused by all these traumas, and we have to tell them, 'No, it's illegal, you can't have a therapy that really works?'" Pickup said.

He also says that he does not force the therapy on children who do not want it.

Recently, a House committee voted 10-4 to send the bill to the full House.

If the bill is signed into law, Oklahoma would become the 20th state to ban conversion therapy.

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