Conversion therapy bill ‘matter of life, death’

HB 2307 under discussion in the Oregon House of Representatives

Public testimony was held on HB 2307 - conversion therapy - in the Oregon House of Representatives, Feb. 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Public testimony was held on HB 2307 - conversion therapy - in the Oregon House of Representatives, Feb. 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity — known as conversion therapy — was the subject of public testimony in a packed room in the Capitol Monday.

“The bill before you right now is a matter of life and death,” said Samantha Ames with the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “The recent death of Leelah Alcorn, a transgendered teenage girl forced into conversion therapy, has been a wake up call to much of the country.”

Vigils are still held across the country for Leelah — born Josh Alcorn — who was 17 when she took her own life. Her parents had sent her to conversion therapy hoping to convince her to reject her gender identity and accept her gender from birth.

Her suicide note cited loneliness and alienation as reasons for ending her life.

Alyssa Chiampi told lawmakers she can relate. Like Alcorn, she felt pressure from family but only saw a therapist once. Acceptance and support, she said, is the best treatment.

“That hour that I met with a therapist was the hardest hour of my entire life,” she said.

That’s why supporters want lawmakers to pass HB 2307.

Opponents of the bill question its language and limitations and failure to answer questions such as whether church leaders face sanctioning for offering counseling.

Also, does a parent who is also a licensed counselor face the same penalties for talking with their own children about sexuality and gender identity.

“The first question that needs to be addressed is whether or not this bill prevents a minor from seeking therapy of their own accord,” said Teresa Harkey with the Oregon Family Council.

Lawmakers took the input from both sides into a work session. KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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