BATON ROUGE–Legislation that would have prohibited licensed medical professionals from engaging with minors in conversion therapy was met with opposition and voluntarily deferred last week at a state House of Representatives' hearing.
The bill defined conversion therapy as practices intended to change a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or both. Under the bill, a medical professional who participated in such therapy could have had his or her license revoked.
“We have a large population of vulnerable youth here, and we need to do everything we can to at least let them know that there are people here who care about them,” the bill’s author, Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, said at the House Committee on Health and Welfare meeting.
Some conservative and religious groups believe that gay people can be persuaded to change their sexual orientation, while many experts dispute that.
Landry amended her bill, House Bill 605, by providing further definitions about health providers and consent and removing criminal language to satisfy other lawmakers, but that did not stop opposition.
She also emphasized the difference between health care and counseling.
“We cannot touch religious counseling,” said Landry. “This is medical care.”
The state cannot interfere with any kind of counseling. Interference with Christian counseling was a concern that lawmakers had previously expressed.
Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, argued that Landry’s concerns are already covered under the medical code of ethics of do no harm. She opposed more regulation.
“It is a dangerous precedent to start regulating everyone’s practices when that is why we have boards,” said Schlegel.
Logan Kinamore, a psychiatrist who joined with Landry, said that this bill would simply give medical boards more power with a statute in the books.
“This helps us do a little more work to make sure that these kids don’t slip through the cracks and don’t end up under the purview of an unethical provider,” said Kinamore.
Elizabeth Murrill, solicitor general for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, argued that the bill threatens professionals based on their speech.
“It is a slippery slope when licensing boards are now being told to go police speech,” said Murrill.
Murrill said the bill violates First Amendment rights, especially religious speech.
“I am almost laughing because you cannot equate treatment and standards of care and what boards do to suppressing free speech,” said Rep. Joseph Stagni, R-Kenner. “I have seen people go a long way to oppose a bill, but this is way out of bounds.”
Stagni motioned to voluntarily defer the bill, stating that he did not believe the bill would make it out of committee.
“This is a human rights bill, that is what it really is,” said Stagni. “This is a life-saving bill, and we are not looking to recognize it for what it is.”