OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A push to end conversion therapy by some in Oklahoma has been introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
"Conversion therapy hurts children, period," said Allie Shinn, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma.
Rep. Jason Dunnington introduced HB 3872 earlier this week. It would prohibit licensed counselors from practicing what she and others call "conversion therapy," which is the practice of converting someone who identifies as gay or bisexual to heterosexual through counseling. It was first introduced last year, but it was never read in committee.
"We want our youth to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. It is okay and beautiful to be gay or or transgender," Shinn said. "It's absolutely fine and nobody should be trying to change that."
She said the bill addresses a practice that drives young people into depression and frequently to suicide.
"When we try to tell children that who they are at their core is wrong, and that they should change some very core and inherent characteristics about themselves, we know that this leads to lasting depression [and] anxiety, that rates of suicide for young people go up," Shinn said.
"Conversion therapy" has been widely discredited by the scientific community, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
The law would only affect licensed counselors, not religious organizations, but News 4 was unable to reach any local licensed counselors who engage in the practice for comment Friday, and instead interviewed First Stone Ministries Executive Director Stephen Black, an outspoken advocate for what he calls "pastoral care." He said he knows several people who are licensed counselors and do work with their patients to make them straight, but that he doubted they would go on camera for fear of negative backlash.
"Nobody's 'praying away the gay,' he said. "We pray with people in their pain and help them to reconcile their pain."
Black said he spent years as a gay man, and his ministry helps others who willingly want to leave what he calls a sinful lifestyle that should not be normalized.
"It is harmful to withhold any kind of counseling or therapy from sexually confused youth, especially if they want it," Black said. "And to deny them of that, I think is akin to child abuse."
But supporters say child abuse is exactly what this bill would prevent.