The House of Representatives voted 141 to 8 Tuesday to pass and send to the Senate a bill that would make Connecticut one of a half-dozen states barring conversion therapy, the discredited practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of young homosexuals.
“This practice and treatment is not science, it’s science fiction,” the bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, told his colleagues.
The bill would enshrine in state law the conclusions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and other national associations of health professionals: Homosexuality is not a disease, and forcing conversion therapy on a minor can be harmful.
“Well, let me make it very clear to all of you here today: As a gay youth and now a gay adult, never was I broken nor in need of being fixed,” Currey said. “Being gay is not a disease, and therefore does not require a cure.”
The bill’s lead sponsors are the legislature’s only two openly gay members, Currey and Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, but its long list of co-sponsors included House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby.
Klarides urged passage of the bill, saying it would protect children against bullying.
“This is one that will allow me to go sleep tonight,” said Klarides, one of 63 Republicans and 78 Democrats to vote for the bill.
Anne Stanback, a veteran of the gay-rights movement and a leader of a coalition seeking the bill, said the message the legislation sends to vulnerable young people was as important as the content.
“I would argue that’s been true since we passed the gay rights bill in 1991 through the codification of gay marriage in 2009,” Stanback said. “The laws are critically important, but the message of acceptance and respect go hand in hand.”
The bill applies only to health professionals providing a fee for service, a provision that does not interfere with the free-speech rights of parents and others to talk to their children, Currey said.
One of the physicians in the legislature, Rep. William Petit, R-Plainville, an endocrinologist, said sexual orientation and gender identity are determined by genetics and “cannot be converted.”
All eight no votes came from Republicans: Sam Belsito of Tolland, Anne Dauphinais of Killingly, Doug Dubinsky of Chaplin, Craig Fishbein of Wallingford, Mike France of Ledyard, John Fusco of Southington, John Piscopo of Thomaston, and Rob C. Sampson of Wolcott.
Dauphinais said passage put Connecticut on a slippery slope of further interfering with parental rights.
“I believe this is a violation of the rights of parents to make choices they see as in the best interest of children,” Dauphinais said.
Sampson called the measure an exercise in political correctness.
“We need to be careful people. We need to be careful because we are losing our freedoms day by day to political correctness,” Sampson said. “And it’s going to keep continuing until someone says no. The state shouldn’t be telling free people how to live their lives.”
Missing the vote were Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk, and Rep. Richard Smith, R-New Fairfield.