Iowa Senate approves ban on gay conversion therapy

Iowa Capitol
The Iowa Senate passed Senate File 334 Tuesday with a vote of 26-24. The bill now heads to the House Human Resources Committee, and faces a tough fight against the Republican-controlled house. — photo by Jimmy Emerson via Flickr Creative Commons

The Iowa Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would ban Iowa mental health providers from using therapy in an attempt to change a child’s sexual orientation.

Senate File 334, which passed 26-24 with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans against, would ban health professionals from engaging in “sexual orientation change efforts” on children under the age of 18. This would include efforts to change a child’s gender expressions, gender identity or to “eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex,” the bill states.

Under the bill, healthcare workers who engage in such practices would be subject to disciplinary action by their respective licensing and/or disciplinary entities, depending on where jurisdiction lies.

Though not stated explicitly, the bill centers around the debate over whether sexual orientation is a choice. For most medical professionals, however, there is no debate. While serving as U.S. Surgeon General in 2001, for instance, David Satcher released a report stating, “there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” A number of major health organizations, including the American Psychological Association, have spoken out against the practice in the years since.

The future of Senate File 334 is tenuous, however.

The bill now heads to the House Human Resources Committee, and from there, it will likely face a difficult fight against the Republican-controlled house.

The bill faces strong opposition from conservatives, particularly Christian groups, who argue that sexual orientation conversion therapy should be a choice left to families. The Des Moines Register reports that the bill’s opponents include the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Iowa Catholic Conference.

Gay conversion therapy is currently banned in New Jersey and California, though several states (in addition to Iowa) have introduced bills to ban the practice in 2015, including Ohio, Florida, Oregon and Arizona.

The full text of the bill is available here.

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