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Colorado House passes bill, again, to ban conversion therapy for minors

Author: Joey Bunch - April 4, 2018 - Updated: April 12, 2018

conversion therapy banReps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, are the House sponsors of a bill to ban gay conversion therapy. (Photos courtesy of the Colorado General Assembly)

DENVER — For the fourth year in a row the Colorado House passed legislation to ban conversion therapy by licensed therapists who counsel minors who think they might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

While the Democratic majority has moved the ban to the Senate each year, Republicans in the majority there quickly killed the bill.

House Bill 1245 passed the House Thursday 36-26, picking up one Republican vote, Rep. Dan. Thurlow of Grand Junction.

Daniel Ramos, the executive director or the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, One Colorado, took the one Republican vote as bipartisan support.

“It is now time for the Senate to do the same, and give this bill a fair hearing,” he said in a statement. “It is my sincere hope that, with this being the fourth time this measure has been introduced in the Colorado legislature, this will be the year Colorado bans a practice on minors that is based on the false claim that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured. They are born perfect, and they deserve their state’s support.”

Proponents for the ban said the practice is cruel to children and can contribute to suicides among LGBTQ teens.

Republicans in the House argued that the issue is a matter of free speech and parental choice, where the government should not intrude. The bill would not affect churches or the therapy for people who are 18 or older.

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, said the practice is dangerous.

“There is a difference between therapy and conversion therapy,” said Esgar, who is openly gay. “I, myself, went through therapy when I was questioning who I was. Nobody forced their beliefs on me. Nobody told me I was going to Hell. Nobody told me I was a horrible person. Nobody made me question my faith in God.”

Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, said she would not defend the practice, but in each of the four years the bill has been before the legislature, she and other lawmakers have heard from people who said they benefited from it.

“I can’t say they are lying,” she said. “It’s not that I support the practice, but it’s a one-way street if we ban it.”

Rep. Paul Rosenthal has sponsored the bill in each of the past four years.

“I’m hopeful this is the year it’s going to pass, not just the House but the Senate, as well,” he said.

Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, a cosponsor of the bill, said it contributes to teen suicides, a prevention effort she has championed in the statehouse.

“This particular practice, for youth, makes them feel like they are not accepted by the people they need most in their life — their parents,” she said.

He asked the lower chamber to pass it by a strong majority to send a message to senators. He pivoted to opponents, “people who consider it a sin (to be gay), but a mental illness as well.”

Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, who has worked as a mental health counselor, said the government should not prohibit free speech.

“If this is something that a family, that a child, would want to be able to discuss, under this bill that would be a crime — well, not a crime, but it would be something they would come under discipline for and possibly lose their license to practice therapy,” he said.

Ramos said no young person “should ever be shamed by a state-licensed mental health professional into thinking who they are is wrong.”

He noted that most professional organizations have condemned conversion therapy.

“It is time for Colorado to do the same,” Ramos said.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.