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Hawaii could be the next state to outlaw conversion therapy after a bill banning the anti-LGBTQ practice cleared a crucial hurdle to passage.

On Tuesday, Hawaii’s House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 270, which would prohibit any attempt to treat the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth as a “curable” condition. The legislation passed the state Senate last month with nearly unanimous support—with only one lawmaker voting against the bill.

Democratic Gov. David Ige is likely to sign SB 270, which has received the official backing of Lt. Gov. Doug Chin.

In 2015, he approved one of the nation’s most progressive trans rights bills—which allows transgender people to correct their birth certificates without completing gender reassignment surgery.

The Aloha State has a long record of pro-LGBTQ legislation. Although Hawaii was one of the first states to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, it has offered partner benefits to state government employees since 1997. It also has fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections in place for queer and trans people in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

SB 270 isn’t quite ready, however, to head to the governor’s desk.

The House of Representatives added a number of amendments to the legislation to bolster protections for spiritual or religious advisors who offer faith-based counseling to LGBTQ youth. Per the House changes to the bill, these entities will not face the loss of licensure for offering reparative therapy.

The Senate and House must agree on a finalized version of the bill, which will then be voted on by both bodies.

Should SB 270 survive deliberations, Hawaii would be the 11th state to pass a bill through its legislature banning orientation change efforts. In addition to the District of Columbia, the states of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington all have statewide laws on the books prohibiting the practice.

A bill banning conversion therapy recently passed the House and Senate in Maryland and now awaits action from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. He has vowed to support the legislation.

LGBTQ advocates applauded Hawaii for joining the growing number of states moving to outlaw the discredited treatment, which has been condemned by every leading medical association in the United States. Groups like the American Psychological Association (AMA) and American Medical Association (AMA) have claimed it’s harmful and ineffective at its intended goal.

“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is nothing short of child abuse with life-threatening consequences for countless LGBTQ youth,” claimed Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof in a statement.

Sam Brinton, a conversion therapy survivor, claimed the bill’s passage would prevent other young people from being subjected to these horrific practices. Tactics conversion counselors use to “treat” patients include everything from talk therapy to electric shock and snapping rubber bands on a patient’s wrists if they have an “impure” thought.

"Hundreds of LGBTQ youth in crisis reach out to The Trevor Project every year from The Aloha State,” said Brinton, who serves as head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project (and uses gender-neutral pronouns).

“By passing this legislation, Hawaiian legislators are clearly demonstrating a passion for action to care for LGBTQ youth,” they continued in a statement provided to INTO. “Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that I and nearly 700,000 LGBTQ people have survived. We are so grateful to Hawaii for protecting our youth from its trauma.”

But the National Center for Lesbian Rights cautioned that nothing is certain until Gov. Ige inks the dotted line. A previous attempt to ban conversion therapy in Hawaii two years stalled after the House failed to bring the legislation up for a vote.

The advocacy group, however, remains hopeful this attempt will prove successful.

“This vote brings LGBTQ youth in Hawaii one step closer to protections from harmful, discredited conversion therapy,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter in a statement. “We are confident that Hawaii will do the right thing and take care of its young people. It’s not there yet, but we believe this bill will become law.”

Photo via GraphicaArtis/Getty Images


Nico Lang
Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.