A new bill being proposed before the Idaho state legislature would prohibit counselors from engaging in conversion therapy with young people.
The "Youth Mental Health Protection Act," HB-398, is sponsored by Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, and would prohibit licensed, professional counselors from engaging in conversion therapy with people under 18. It would also prohibit any state funds from being used for conversion therapy in any way.
"The practice of conversion therapy, to try to change young people who are gay into not being gay, is a very harmful practice," McCrostie told EastIdahoNews.com.
According to the bill, conversion therapy means any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.
"Young people who are exposed to conversion therapy and manage to survive…(are) six times more likely to suffer extreme depression and eight times more likely to commit suicide," McCrostie said.
The American Psychological Association said in "Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth" that conversion therapy is based in the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder. This idea has been rejected by all the major mental health professions, the APA says.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, youth should "avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change a person's sexual orientation or treatment ideas that see homosexuality as a sickness."
Out of 13 studies compiled by Colombia Law School, one concluded that conversion therapy can be effective.
The study in question, published in 2000 in the peer-reviewed journal "Psychological Reports," surveyed 882 people. The study showed that 89.7 percent of the participants viewed themselves as "more homosexual than heterosexual," "almost exclusively homosexual," or "exclusively homosexual" prior to engaging in conversion therapy or making self-help efforts to change their sexuality.
After conversion therapy or self-help efforts, 35.1 percent of participants said they still felt the same as before.
The other 12 studies showed that conversion therapy was not effective and some showed it could even be harmful.
If the bill passes, any licensed counselor who engages in conversion therapy with an individual under 18 would be subject to disciplinary action from their licensing entity.
McCrostie introduced the bill last year but it failed to get a hearing. The lawmaker said it is not likely to get a hearing this year, but he is hopeful.
"At least what I've been able to do is get the issue out for public consumption, public dialogue," he said. "Since last year and today, through the reintroduction, I've received a lot of support from my constituents (and) the LGBT community. We'll see where it goes from there, but at least the topic is getting addressed."
McCrostie is Idaho's first openly gay representative in the Idaho House and second openly gay state legislator.