Prizm News / May 7, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

Senator Maharath

Prizm speaks with State Senator Maharath about Senate Bill 130

By Ken Schneck

Though conversion therapy has been thoroughly discredited by the American Medical Association as both ineffective and legitimately harmful, the practice has only been banned in 16 US states. Ohio is seeking to join the list as State Senator Tina Maharath has introduced language to outlaw conversion therapy

If passed, Senate Bill 130 would specifically legislate that “an applicant or health care professional shall not engage in conversion therapy when providing mental health treatment to a minor patient.”  Failure to comply with the language could result in the suspension or revocation of the provider’s license. 

Prizm spoke with Senator Maharath (D-Columbus) about this important bill and what we can all do to help get it passed. 

Why this bill and why now?

The intent of this bill is to discourage the perception of homosexuality as a psychological disorder. I am a big advocate of addressing child trauma and mental health issues. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not problems that need to be fixed. When youth are forced into conversion therapy, it can lead to higher rates of depression and suicide. When I was on the campaign trail, a 10-year-old Cambodian boy in Grove City committed suicide. He wasn’t aware of all of the LGBTQ resources in Ohio. We need to make sure that the LGBTQ community is protected and we need to do it now. 

What’s up next for SB 130 and what’s the prognosis?

The bill just got to the Health and Human Services Committee, and now we are waiting for sponsor testimony. Having medical professionals come in with proven facts and knowledge will help pass the bill. The available research—from nonpartisan medical associations—does not support the use of conversion therapy. Evidence shows that conversion therapy causes damage that can stay with these minors the rest of their lives. It also helps us that six Ohio cities have already banned conversion therapy, including a small town like Athens. I am fortunate to have such supportive Democratic colleagues and I look forward to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle joining us to pass these important protections.

In so many communities, conversation therapy is being practiced within the context of faith. How do you approach the topic of religion in passing this bill?

It’s important that people understand that this bill has nothing to do with religion. I know that there are some Christian beliefs that are based on a man and a woman in holy matrimony. But we’ve already amended our Ohio language to include the LGBTQ community, so let’s go further. Let’s protect all LGBTQ people including the most vulnerable. We are the people’s house, not the Lord’s house. 

How can readers show their support of this bill?

I need everyone to do advocacy work. Call Senator Dave Burke, the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. Call your state legislators to get this moving. The more calls you make to offer supportive testimony, the more we can advocate for the bill’s passage. It can’t just be one or two voices. Please, everyone: speak up. I really want people know that there are minors in Ohio who are forced to endure conversion therapy and its damaging effects, and legislators need to no longer allow this to happen.