This week, Indiana legislators introduced a bill that would ban the highly controversial practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth across the state.
Senate Bill 32 was authored by Democratic state Sen. J.D. Ford, the first openly gay person elected to Indiana’s state legislature. State Representative Sue Errington authored companion legislation in Indiana’s House, House Bill 1213.
Both bills would ban all mental health facilities from practicing conversion therapy on patients younger than 18 years old; practioners who violate the ban would be subject to disciplinary action.
“Our state has the chance to end this harmful and detrimental practice this year. A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not a disease that needs cured,” Ford wrote in a statement, adding: “I’m counting on all Hoosiers to help me get this across the finish line. Call your state senators. Call your state representatives. Call our governor. Tell them that Indiana doesn’t support hate in our state.”
Conversion therapy is considered “any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” according to LGBTQ+ activist organization GLAAD. The practice, which was widely employed during the 20th century, is now denounced as a pseudoscience.
In 1997, the American Psychiatric Association affirmed there is “no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of [conversion therapy] as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.”
If the bills pass, Indiana would join nearly 20 other states that have laws banning conversion therapy for minors, including California, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia.
The passage would also be notable in light of Indiana’s turbulent history on LGBTQ+ rights. When Vice President Mike Pence was governor of the state in 2015, he signed SB 101 into law, which broadened the ability of individuals and businesses to use religion as a defense in legal proceedings. At the time, the bill was widely criticized for allowing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, which Pence repeatedly denied.