Lightbody introduces bill to ban conversion therapy

    Close-Up of rainbow flag with crowd In background during LGBT Pride Parade. Getty Images.

    A Democratic Ohio state representative has introduced legislation that would ban the use of conversion therapy for treating minors, a press release said Tuesday.

    The process of conversion therapy is considered emotionally traumatic and has been linked to higher rates of suicide and depression, according to the American Psychological Association

    State Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, has been working with a coalition of organizations for the past several months to create legislation that addresses this issue, the release said, including quality Ohio, Human Rights Campaign, Equitas Health, Kaleidoscope Youth Center, Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition, National Association of Social Workers-Ohio Chapter, the Ohio Psychological Association, and the Ohio School Psychologists Association.

    “Human beings are complex and each individual is unique. As children grow, we all learn about the world and develop an identity that expresses who we are at heart,” Lightbody said. “This legislation affirms the right of young people to develop their own gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation without those in the medical community trying to change their minds.”

    Nineteen states, plus Washington, D.C., have laws banning conversion therapy for minors. In addition, seven cities in Ohio (Athens, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Kent, Lakewood, and Toledo) have banned conversion therapy as well, the release noted.

    The American Medical Association, among the largest, oldest and most powerful of professional health organizations, has called for a legislative ban on conversion therapy.

    “Conversion therapy has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety,” said board member Dr. William Kobler, in a statement emailed through an AMA spokesman.

    The Endocrine Society, which represents about 18,000 endocrinologists (hormone doctors), rejects Van Meter’s approach as well.

    “Individuals may make choices due to other factors in their lives, but there do not seem to be external forces that genuinely cause individuals to change gender identity,” according to the association’s position statement.

    Researchers at Cornell University in New York conducted a review of 13 primary research studies about whether conversion therapy can alter sexual orientation without causing harm. Of those, 12 concluded the practice is ineffective and can be linked to depression, suicide, anxiety, and social isolation.

    They noted the outlier study has “several limitations,” including that it’s self-identified as religious and based on self-reporting.

    This tracks with September 2019 research in the Journal of American Medicine analyzing more than 27,000 transgender people. That study found transgender adults who recalled conversion efforts before they were 10 years old were “significantly associated” with an increase in the lifetime odds of suicide attempts.

    Lightbody’s bill has not yet been assigned to a House committee, where it would be eligible for public hearings. With Republicans holding supermajority control over both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly, the prospects for this bill advancing and becoming law are dim.

    “Psychologists and other mental health professionals recognize that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is a normal variation of the human condition. None of these conditions are considered to be a disorder or problem that needs to be changed,” said Jim Broyles, director of professional affairs for the Ohio Psychological Association. “No valid, scientific evidence supports the notion that any treatment intervention can change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Solid evidence exists that these change efforts can be quite damaging for an individual.

    As the Ohio Capital Journal reported recently, the Ohio Department of Health has hired a conversion therapy advocate to serve as its expert witness in a civil rights lawsuit filed against the state.

    ODH lawyers retained Dr. Quentin Van Meter, a pediatric endocrinologist from Georgia, at rates reaching $450 per hour, to support the state’s refusal to change the listed sex on the birth certificate of four transgender people.

    David C. DeWitt
    David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.