OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A bill intended to prevent health care providers from trying to convert gay people under age 18 passed the state House Thursday.
House Bill 2451, which passed on a 94-4 vote, would make it an act of unprofessional conduct to try to change the sexual orientation of a patient under 18. That would include efforts to change behaviors, gender expressions or to reduce sexual or romantic attractions toward people of the same sex.
Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said regardless of personal beliefs, all youth should be protected.
"As a Christian person, I can't stand by and watch someone be put through a tortuous practice to change a behavior," he said.
Rep. Laurie Jinkins spoke of a friend who was institutionalized and given shock treatments as a teenager after telling her parents she was a lesbian.
"This bill is about recognizing human dignity of all our kids," said Jinkins, a Democrat from Tacoma.
The measure would fall under the Uniform Disciplinary Act, which includes acts of unprofessional conduct such as negligence, dishonesty, misuse of drugs or alcohol and betrayal of practitioner-patient privilege. Disciplinary authorities could sanction a health-care provider found to be engaging in gay conversion efforts. Sanctions could range from a fine to probation to mandatory remedial education to license revocation.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, opposed the bill because he said it violates the Washington Constitution.
"Regulating licensed health-care providers is not our business," he said, adding that providers should be able to speak freely in conversations with patients.
Joining him in opposition were Reps. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington; Jason Overstreet, R-Lynden; and Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe.
Psychotherapies providing "acceptance, support and understanding" would be exempt from the measure. It also would not apply to speech, religious practices or counseling not considered efforts to change a person's sexual orientation.
Similar restrictions are in place in California and New Jersey.
The bill now heads to the Senate.