Democrat pushes legislation to ban sexual orientation conversion therapy

DOVER — A Wilmington senator on Wednesday announced legislation to ban treatment intended to help individuals change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill would make it unlawful for nurses, psychologists, social workers and others to perform conversion therapy or refer anyone to conversion therapy programs, even ones located out of state.

Anyone who promotes or practices conversion therapy could lose their license to practice medicine or psychiatry, under the proposed legislation.

“Conversion therapy is a pseudoscience,” insisted main sponsor Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington. “It poses a risk to our LGBTQ youth and can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and self-harm among our most vulnerable children.”

The Wilmington Democrat added, “the fact is LGBTQ is part of a natural spectrum of identities.”

Conversion therapy can include electric shocks, psychoanalysis and intense prayer, the senator said.

The American Psychological Association has said the treatment does not have scientific backing and is “based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions.”

However, advocates of LGBT rights said Wednesday they are unaware of any instances of conversion therapy in Delaware. But they said the practice — referred to by Sen. McDowell as “child abuse” — still deserves to be criminalized.

“There is no credible evidence to suggest that this can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and there is abundant evidence demonstrating the devastating health risks for LGBTQ youth subject to this cruel treatment,” said Sarah McBride, a transgender Delaware resident.

The bill is sponsored by 11 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Mike Ramone of Pike Creek Valley.

Senior property subsidy

Earlier in the day, members of the Joint Finance Committee discussed a proposal from Gov. John Carney to cut the senior property tax subsidy by $100. The subsidy currently allows residents over 65 a break of $500 or 50 percent on their property taxes.

But JFC co-chair Rep. Melanie George Smith, D-Bear, asked Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger if it would be possible to allow “low-income” residents to still receive the full amount.

Lawmakers batted around the idea of means-testing the subsidy or requiring residents to certify their application.

Income tax submissions rely partly on people being honest and partly on audits catching those who lie and Rep. George Smith asked if such a thing could be done for the subsidy.

“It really depends on how many people we’re able to catch and then what the penalty is,” Mr. Geisenberger said in response.

Then Gov. Jack Markell proposed halving the tax-break subsidy two years ago, but it was rejected by lawmakers.

A bipartisan bill filed last month would change the time of residency to be eligible to receive the subsidy from three years to 10 years.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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