HAWAII (KHON) – Hawaii is the latest state to try to ban “gay conversion therapy” for minors.
Prohibits teachers and persons who are licensed to provide professional counseling from engaging in or advertising sexual orientation change efforts on students and persons under eighteen years of age.
Several states, like California and Oregon, have passed similar laws, and now, Hawaii lawmakers are considering the ban.
So what is gay conversion therapy and is it happening in our schools?
We’re told it is happening, and that it’s widespread. While gay conversion therapy covers a wide range of “services,” one lawmaker is targeting “talk therapy,” where kids are encouraged to change their feelings about sexual orientation.
Rep. Della Au Belatti, D, Makiki, Tantalus, Manoa, helped introduce the bill in the House.
“We need to reassure our transgendered, homosexual youth that they are not being rejected by society,” she said.
It also bans advertising that promotes changing one’s sexual orientation.
“We are getting anecdotal testimony from individuals, you know, young children who come forward,” Au Belatti said. “We know teens struggle, we know also that lesbian and homosexual and transgender teens suffer a lot of discrimination, rejection, so we do hear from them. ”
KHON2 reached out to the Hawaii Department of Education to find out if gay conversion therapy is happening, but a spokeswoman says there have been no reports.
We also called various private schools, like Saint Francis School in Manoa, which says it does not do gay conversion therapy.
So we checked with Life Foundation, a non-profit that works with gay, lesbian, and transgender youth. Monoiki Ah Neeban says students have not reached out to the foundation yet, but they’re ready to help.
“It would affect anybody to be told, ‘You’re wrong. You’re not like the others. You’re different,’ in a negative,” Ah Neeban said. “The forced perception on the child is you’re wrong. It’s going to be damaging.”
Opponents of the bill say it’s flawed.
“What if a child is questioning? They’re on the fence. It happens. As a parent, I want, personally, to steer my child in a particular direction. By this bill, I’m banned from doing that,” said Rep. Bob McDermott, R, Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point. “This is merely more political correctness, nothing more than tyranny with manners.”
But Au Belatti says she’s glad to bring up a discussion.
“I want to learn from this bill (what) the extent of those kinds of therapies are, and certainly there are licensed individuals in our school systems. They need to understand conversion therapy is not acceptable,” she said.