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House committee votes against banning gay conversion therapy

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Monitor staff
Thursday, March 30, 2017

New Hampshire won’t ban gay conversion therapy for minors this year, after a House committee voted this week to hold back the bill. 

In a 13-8 vote, the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee retained the legislation Tuesday over concerns that it limits parental rights and counseling for youth working through their sexuality, members said. 

The decision marks another setback for LGBT-rights groups, which earlier this year saw the Republican-led House defeat a bill to expand anti-discrimination protections for transgender people.

“It’s another year to go without protections for people,” said Democratic Rep. Renny Cushing, a co-sponsor on both pieces of legislation.

Both bills had already cleared the Republican-led Senate, and sponsors included Majority Leader Jeb Bradley.

The conversion therapy bill sought to bar licensed counselors from using treatments that try to change a minor’s sexual orientation or reduce romantic attractions toward people of the same gender. Conversion therapy techniques have in the past included administering electric shock or using shame to induce an aversion to same-sex attractions, according to the American Psychological Association.

Republican Rep. Mark Pearson, who co-founded New Creation Healing Center, said all members of the committee opposed such therapies, but the proposed legislation went “much further.”

“On numerous occasions young people have wished to explore with our counselors or senior medical personnel various sexual and romantic feelings,” he said in a written statement. “Had this bill passed, such helpful discussions would have subjected our professionals to discipline by their respective state licensing boards.”

The Republican-led House did pass a bill banning gay conversion therapy last year. Cushing said the tone in Washington, D.C., is influencing the debate in New Hampshire.

President Donald Trump recently rolled back federal guidelines put in place by the Obama administration that allow transgender students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities.

Former governor Maggie Hassan signed an executive order six months before leaving office prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in state government, a policy that has not been reversed.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)