Conversion therapy ban introduced in Mike Pence's home state of Indiana

Conversion therapy ban introduced in VP Pence's home state of Indiana. - @NBCOUT

1 hours ago

Conversion therapy ban introduced in VP Pence's home state of Indiana. - NBCOUT

The state's first openly gay legislator hopes to push the issue beyond partisan politics.

Jenna Watson / IndyStar - USA TODAY NETWORKJan. 14, 2021, 9:31 AM UTCByDan AveryIndiana legislators this week introduced a measure that would ban conversion therapy for minors by licensed counselors., authored by Democratic state Sen. J.D. Ford, would prohibit efforts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone younger than 18.

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Therapists who violate the order would be subject to disciplinary action, including possible loss of their licenses."I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle see this isn't a partisan issue. It's a lifesaving issue," said Ford, the first openly gay lawmaker in Indiana."I don't want to hear 'Oh, we can't give your bill a hearing, because we have to deal with Covid-19.' Yes, the pandemic is a huge priority, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy, has been widely discredited by an overwhelming majority of health care organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and even the

Department of Health and Human Servicesduring the Obama administration.LGBTQ Americans who have been subjected to conversion therapy are nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression and eight times more likely to have attempted suicide,

according to GLAAD.To date, 20 states and more than 80 cities have outlawed attempts to change the sexual orientations or gender identities of minors. Except in Utah, most bans have been passed by Democratic-controlled legislatures.Passing such a ban in Indiana would be a turning point for the state, said Drew Anderson, a board member of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats.

"We can set a standard for other states that people view as Republican about being successful on LGBTQ issues," he said.It would also distance Indiana from the anti-LGBTQ reputation it gained under Vice President Mike Pence, who was governor from 2013 through 2016 and represented it in Congress from 2001 through 2012.

As a member of Congress, Pence supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, and he opposed both the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have protected LGBTQ workers, and the repeal of"don't ask, don't tell."

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As governor, he signed the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some interpreted as allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers. The law, passed in 2015, sparked numerous boycotts and led Angie's List to cancel a $40 million expansion into Indiana.

And as Donald Trump's vice president, Pence is part of an administration that has opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans, banned transgender service members and allowed child welfare agenciesto reject same-sex prospective parents

."Pence has attacked us at every point and put such a negative cloud around the state because of his own views," Anderson said."We're doing as much to show people that Indiana is welcoming to all communities."Activists have claimed that Pence also endorsed conversion therapy, pointing to language on a 2000 campaign website calling for federal AIDS funds to go to"institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." In 2018, Pence's press secretary, Alyssa Farah,

that he"has never supported conversion therapy and doesn't support it now."Indiana legislators have sought to outlaw conversion therapy before: In 2019, Democratsintroduced a banthat failed to get a hearing in the General Assembly, where Republicans still hold supermajorities in both chambers.

A key difference since then is the rise of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg to national prominence. Buttigieg, the first openly gay Democratic presidential candidate, went from a dark horse to a front-runner, winning the most delegates in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Last month, President-elect Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate Buttigieg to be transportation secretary.

"The work that Pete's done, just running for president, has increased LGBTQ acceptance in Indiana tenfold," Anderson said."Finally all these people know someone who is gay, even if they didn't before."Buttigieg did not respond to a request for comment about the conversion therapy bill. In 2019, he asserted that being gay was something he was born with.

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"If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade," he said at a 2019fundraiser."And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."

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