Iowa Conversion Therapy Ban Bill Tabled; Effort Could Continue Next Year

Feb 19, 2020

A House panel tabled a bill Wednesday that would ban Iowa health care providers from trying to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

House State Government Committee Chair Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said people on both sides of the issue raised too many concerns about his proposal to advance it ahead of this week’s legislative deadline. 

“It would be ridiculous for us to pass a conversion therapy ban that the LGBTQ groups and Democrats don’t support,” Kaufmann said. “That wouldn’t make any sense.”

He added he will continue working on legislation to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ children next year.

“I’ve heard Republicans and Democrats in both chambers talking about how to achieve a bill on conversion therapy,” Kaufmann said. “And so I had to decide where to start.”

Those who support banning conversion therapy said Kaufmann’s bill does not have strong enough protections.

“What we really want when we’re talking about banning conversion therapy is not just for licensed mental health professionals, but also calling it what it is,” said Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools. “It’s child abuse.”

Iowa Safe Schools also believes kids in foster care need additional protections under the bill.

But Monson said just having the hearing is an important signal to parents and kids that there is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.

Lobbyist Denise Rathman said the National Association of Social Workers in Iowa has opposed conversion therapy for a long time because suggesting a person can change their sexual orientation or gender identity is not supported by science.

“It’s not the licensed professionals necessarily that we need to be concerned about because it would be against their rules of conduct, as well as their code of ethics, to perform any of those particular so-called treatments,” Rathman said.

The bill would exempt religious groups, parents and grandparents. But some Christian conservatives said it still discriminates against particular viewpoints about sexual orientation.

“This bill is not solving a problem here,” said Daniel Sunne, a lobbyist for The Family Leader. “It’s only creating new problems through the imposition of a political orthodoxy.”

Sunne also said it does not protect against other kinds of therapies he said are abusive.