41-18 vote sends it to Senate; only two states bar practice applied to gay, lesbian youths.

A bill banning state-licensed professionals from treatments aimed at changing sexual orientation, known as “conversion therapy,” is halfway through the Oregon Legislature.

The House approved a ban on such practices as applied to minors on a 41-18 vote Tuesday, and sent House Bill 2307 to the Senate.

The practice is aimed at changing sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, but the American Psychological Association raised ethical questions about it back in 1997, and in 2009, concluded there is no scientific evidence to support its effectiveness.

For gay and lesbian youth, “the message is this: There is nothing wrong with you,” says Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, the bill’s floor manager.

Nosse himself came to Oregon in 1992, when the Oregon Citizens Alliance sponsored the first of three anti-gay rights ballot measures, all of which failed. The 1992 measure would have written into the Oregon Constitution that such a sexual orientation was “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse.”

“I became pretty depressed about the prospect of being gay,” says Nosse, who came out as gay at age 23. “I felt my life — and my life plan as I knew it to be — was over.”

Seven Republicans joined 34 Democrats in support of the bill.

“Oregon should ban this fraudulent practice,” says Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, an orthopedic surgeon.

“Conversion therapy is based on the deeply flawed premise that because of your sexual orientation, you must have a mental disorder and be in need of professional help. We know that concept is not only ridiculous but incredibly offensive.”

The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte sought assurances that the bill would not interfere with religious liberty.

“Based on the assurances I am hearing today, I believe the legislative intent … of this bill does not prevent any counselor from referring to or discussing a text that is inherent to their professional relationship” such as the Bible, McLane said.

But Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City — a retired psychologist — said “I believe decisions on practice standards should come from our legislatively created boards, not from legislation.”

All 18 votes against the bill were cast by Republicans.

Only California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., have banned conversion therapy for minors, although lawmakers in other states are considering legislation similar to Oregon’s. Oklahoma is considering a bill to do the opposite.

Jeana Frazzini is executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, which has led efforts for HB 2307.

“We are aware of recent cases where young people have been subjected to conversion therapy. It continues to this day,” Frazzini said after the House vote. “So it’s all the more important that there is a strong declarative statement in law from the leadership of this state saying it is unacceptable.”

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