House passes ban on gay ‘conversion therapy’ in NM

SANTA FE — The state House late Wednesday passed a bill that prohibits therapists and other licensed professionals from providing “conversion therapy” aimed at changing a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The proposal, Senate Bill 121, won approval on a 44-23 vote. It was co-sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria and Rep. G. Andres Romero, both Albuquerque Democrats.

The bill passed the Senate last month, but the House made changes that will require Senate agreement before it can go to Gov. Susana Martinez.

Supporters of the bill said conversion therapy is a discredited practice, condemned by major medical organizations.

“This is a harmful practice,” Romero said, “and we should not allow children to go through this.”

Opponents said the proposal would have unintended consequences, perhaps discouraging a therapist from helping someone for fear of running afoul of the law.

“It brings politics into these licensing boards,” Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, said.

Others had broader concerns.

Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, asked Romero if he had undergone conversion therapy himself.

Romero said “no,” he hadn’t.

Gallegos questioned, then, whether Romero was qualified to weigh in on the practice.

The debate lasted about two and a half hours, and it was emotional at times.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, shared a story about learning, as a child, that one of his cousins was gay. The cousin wasn’t treated with much support, he said, “if you remember attitudes about gay people in the late 1980s.”

He added: “This bill supports our children.”

In the end, the vote wasn’t close, as some Republicans joined Democrats in favor.

The bill would prohibit therapists and other licensed professionals from providing conversion therapy to a person under 18.

Conversion therapy is defined in the bill as the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or identity.

Counselors could still provide services — such as acceptance and coping skills — as long as they don’t try to change the person’s sexual orientation or identity.