February 3, 2017

Senate panel unanimously approves ban on conversion therapy

State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque

In a bipartisan decision Friday, a Senate committee voted 5-0 in favor of a bill that would outlaw the use of conversion therapy to treat homosexual, bisexual or transgender minors.

The vote by the Senate Public Affairs Committee for Senate Bill 121 came after emotional testimony from audience members, some of whom had undergone conversion therapy.

Kei Cypher, a student at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, said she was raised in a religious family in Colorado Springs, Colo., that was confused when she came out at age 13.

“They told me it was something I got from MTV or video games,” she told the committee. “They took me to a therapist who told me it was a perversion and that I should snap my wrist with a rubber band or hold ice in my hands every time I had such thoughts.”

She said she also received electroshock therapy and eventually attempted suicide.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, would amend several laws that regulate medical, nursing and counseling practices.

Therapists who use conversion therapy would be in danger of losing their state license. The bill defines conversion therapy as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including any effort to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward persons of the same sex.”

An analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee staff quotes the state Medical Board as saying conversion therapy “not only is ineffective, but the vast majority of the time creates many more problems than it solves, especially with an individual’s perceived gender identification.”

Contact Steve Terrell at 505-986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his political blog at www.santafenewmexican.com/news/blogs/politics.