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Rep. Joe McNamara

Rep. Joe McNamara delivering his Irish poem at the annual Rhode Island House of Representatives' St. Patrick's Day-St. Joseph's Day celebration on March 18, 2015. McNamara is a cosponsor of the Prevention of Conversion Therapy for Children Act, introduced last month. Photo courtesy of rilin.state.ri.us.

If the Prevention of Conversion Therapy for Children Act is passed, licensed medical practitioners would be prohibited from practicing “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to a legal from GLAD, which worked with Rhode Island legislatures to craft the bill.

The legislation would bring the Ocean State one step closer to a statewide ban on what Rep. Joseph McNamara of Warwick, one of the bill’s cosponsors, called the “barbaric” practice.

“Kids who are subjected to this kind of treatment are statistically more likely to commit suicide, suffer from depression and have really debilitating issues when coming to terms with their sexuality, which is not a particularly easy thing to do in the first place,” said fellow cosponsor Rep. Moira Walsh of Providence.

“Unfortunately, this bill is specific to licensed medical practitioners, which does not solve the problem of church-coordinated, conversion therapy situations,” said Walsh. “This really does nothing for the religious end of it — you can’t really tell a parent what to do with their child.”

Still, if passed, notes a March 14 Brown Daily Herald report, “the bill would make Rhode Island something of an exception in the fight against the practice: conversion therapy as a treatment for minors is currently banned in only five states and the District of Columbia — the only New England state to pass a bill limiting the practice is Vermont, which banned conversion therapy last year.”

At the bill’s committee hearing, more than 80 people testified in favor of the bill with only only one — a man who said he and other adults had gone through the process themselves at their church — testifying against it.

“Kids who are subjected to this kind of treatment are statistically more likely to commit suicide, suffer from depression and have really debilitating issues when coming to terms with their sexuality, which is not a particularly easy thing to do in the first place,” Walsh told the Daily Herald, which went on to report:

Despite public support, Walsh is uncertain of the bill’s passing. The future of the Act will depend on the position of the Speaker of the House — State Rep. Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston — as well as other representatives who could refrain from signing on, Walsh said.

Mattiello’s position on the issue is unclear. While he reversed his previous opposition to gay marriage in 2013, he has not been shy in straying from his party on issues like abortion and gun rights, RI Monthly previously reported .

“Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t matter how good the bill is or how much support it has, it really is not in your hands,” Walsh said. “We are limited in the ways that we can assist but, by drawing attention to the fact that this is still an ongoing practice — that does a measurable good in and of itself.”

 

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