TN Senate Bills Weigh Restricting Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy that promotes homosexual and bisexual identity changes and other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health, fitness, and educational opportunities would be severely restricted if two Tennessee legislators have their way. The…

TN Senate Bills Weigh Restricting Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy that promotes homosexual and bisexual identity changes and other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health, fitness, and educational opportunities would be severely restricted if two Tennessee legislators have their way.

The bill that was unveiled to the Legislative Committee on the General Assembly was filed by state Senators Todd Gardenhire and Lee Harris. Senate Bill 354 would prohibit all licensed mental health providers from using “sexual orientation change efforts” on vulnerable minors or anyone under the age of 18. The bill would be aimed toward “sexual orientation change efforts” under the law now outlawed under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-7-93.1.

“It can’t be stressed enough that all the research shows that this counseling is harmful,” Gardenhire said. “It is a discredited and dangerous practice that has no research backing it up. What will happen in a conversion therapy conversion therapy situation is that a religious counselor will deliver a harmful message to a child that will shape the child for life.”

According to Gardenhire, “the practice of conversion therapy is prohibited on both public and private schools in Tennessee. This practice should be prohibited on any child under 18 regardless of religion or sex.”

Conversion therapy proponents have traditionally denied there is a substantial data base supporting the use of conversion therapy, with many groups falsely stating it is “not even a concept anymore.” The so-called belief that conversion therapy teaches a child’s “transsexualist” attraction to the opposite sex and his or her desire to identify as “LGBT” has long been debunked.

An article in The American Psychological Association Journal in 2008 says: “The idea that such therapies alter sexual orientation and promote LGBT identity claims are substantially scientifically unsupported, have been excluded from clinical work across mental health settings, and have been disapproved by the relevant professional organizations.”

Other groups in the health field say the practice is much more harmful than it is believed to be.

Dr. Adam G. Herrara, Clinical Psychologist and MPH, Forensic Behavioral Psychologist at New York University School of Medicine, notes that being LGBT is not a behavioral abnormality, nor is it a mental health issue. It is not a sign of a psychological disorder. It is a social construct and a cultural phenomenon. The study has shown that LGBT youth who live in supportive, gay-friendly environments are better adjusted in life compared to youth who live in homophobic environments.

Ethan Willner and Reuben Barisoff of Northeastern University found that youth experiencing same-sex attractions, including some youth who consider themselves heterosexual, “may themselves become bisexual more rapidly, but they are not more likely to initiate heterosexual relationships.”

Children and adolescents can be bisexual in early childhood and adolescence. “This does not make them asexual or ‘fixed’ in that role, nor does it increase the risk of suicide or other self-harm,” the authors said.

“We have a history of asexuality in the world. Look up the word ‘nonsexual,’” Gardenhire added. “Why wouldn’t we think the same about the LGBT community? If you are going to stigmatize homosexuality, stigma also applies to heterosexuality.”

Gardenhire says the bill is being filed in anticipation of the passage of a gay-friendly Human Rights Amendment.

“The Human Rights Amendment will recognize the validity of both ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ in order to protect the existence of the LGBT community in Tennessee. If the Human Rights Amendment passes, we will be ahead of the curve and support the constitutional rights of the LGBT community. We have nothing to fear by supporting the Human Rights Amendment.”

If Gardenhire has his way, conversion therapy would be illegal in Tennessee.

Eric Darbe is the chief legal counsel for the Family Research Council. He has litigated over a hundred cases involving various types of religious freedom and related freedom of speech.

Leave a Comment