COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Anti-LGBTQ+ techniques known as “conversion therapy,” used to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, could be banned in Ohio if a new bipartisan proposal is signed into law.
House Bill 220 — the “Anti-Conversion Therapy Act” — has been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives to prohibit licensed healthcare providers from engaging in conversion therapy with patients who are minors. Professionals who fail to comply with the act could have their license suspended, revoked or denied renewal.
Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) introduced the act after she received “overwhelming opposition” to a bill passed in the Ohio House banning trans athletes from participating in girls’ sports and prohibiting trans youth from receiving certain medical care. A second bill also passed altering how teachers can discuss the LGBTQ+ community in classrooms.
“As an educator, I cannot support legislation that singles out LGBTQ+ youth and would negate the efforts of schools, teachers, and students to create inclusive classroom environments for all,” said Lightbody, who taught in K-12 education and at the collegiate level in Ohio for more than 30 years. “Students learn best in classrooms in which they feel at ease and comfortable, and from teachers they like and trust.”
The proposal would enact a statewide policy after 11 different Ohio municipalities, including Columbus, Dayton, Akron and Toledo, already passed measures banning the practice within city limits. Ohio would also become the 28th state in the nation to prohibit conversion therapy after Arizona banned the practice in June.
Lightbody’s legislation echoes major mental health associations that discredit conversion therapy, including the American Medical Association, which say the assumption that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed is not based on medical or scientific evidence.
Still, more than half a million LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S. were at risk of undergoing conversion therapy in 2021. Those who undergo the techniques are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, six times more likely to report high levels of depression and three times as likely to use illegal drugs, according to San Francisco State University.
A conversion therapy ban comes as Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and another group of bipartisan legislators are aiming to also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression through the “Ohio Fairness Act.” Although 80% of Americans support non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community, Ohio is one of 27 U.S. states without laws protecting from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
The Anti-Conversion Therapy Act has been assigned to the Ohio House Public Health Policy Committee, where it is eligible for hearings open for public testimony.