New bills in the Kentucky House and Senate would ban conversion therapy, a controversial practice that seeks to use spiritual beliefs to "convert" LGBTQ individuals to heterosexual preferences or cisgender identities.
House Bill 199 and Senate Bill 85 — cosponsored by Republican State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr and Democrat State Rep. Lisa Wilner respectively — would levy disciplinary action from licensing agencies against mental health professionals who practice conversion therapy with patients under the age of 18 or those who have been determined to require guardianship due to their mental states. It would also bar state funding from going to organizations that provide conversion therapy.
Critics point out that the practice isn't supported by any scientific evidence and say it can be incredibly traumatic.
"Numerous professional organizations have concluded that conversion therapy can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, ranging from depression to substance use to suicidality," the Senate legislation reads.
Kerr, a conservative, has called conversion efforts "torture" and says having a gay son and seeing a documentary about conversion therapy called Boy Erased helped her understand the need to ban the practice.
"It can't be fixed and it shouldn’t be fixed," Kerr said of sexual orientation in a Jan. 24 interview with an ABC affiliate. “In my Christian faith, I am taught that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderfully made, and I believe that very strongly.”
Currently, 19 states forbid conversion therapy for minors. Ohio and Indiana are not among them, though Indiana lawmakers are mulling similar legislation and Cincinnati City Council in 2015 passed an ordinance fining therapists $200 a day if they practice conversion therapy with minors. Utah became the latest state to forbid conversion therapy when it passed its law Jan. 22.