Honolulu lawmakers consider classifying conversion therapy as child abuse

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On January 28, state lawmakers in Honolulu, Hawaii, will hear testimony regarding a bill that would declare so-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy on minors to be child abuse, therefore banning it from use and making violations of the law a prosecutable defense.

The bill, HB 1789, notes that, “studies confirm the serious health risks that minors face when they experience family rejection based on their sexual orientation.”

In one study, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported high levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection. The legislature therefore concludes that all minors, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender minors who experience family rejection, should be protected against sexual orientation change efforts by teachers and counseling professionals.

The purpose of this Act is to protect the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.

The law would not apply to those over 18, leaving adults legally free to seek out the therapy themselves.

According to the Metro Oahu, one form the “reparative” treatments can take is administering drugs meant to literally sicken patients. The Chairman for the Department of Psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Ashley Maynard, told the news site, “The drugs make them feel nauseated to make them associate a bad feeling, nausea, with the photographs. It’s an aversion therapy in that sense which is really shocking.”

One of the bill’s drafters, Kathryn Xian, told the Metro Oahu that over a hundred people have registered to testify during the hearing.

Bans on SOCE for minors are in place in California and New Jersey, and have been proposed in New York, Maryland, and Minnesota as well.

An overview of HB 1789, including its full text, can be read here.

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