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Bill Banning Gay Conversion Therapy On Kids Goes To House Floor

DENVER (CBS4) - A bill aimed at stopping a controversial therapy in Colorado from being used on teenagers and children moved forward on Tuesday. Supporters say conversion therapy can help gay and lesbians become straight.

The bill passed in the Democrat-controlled House committee along party lines 7-6 and now goes to the House floor.

A similar bill failed last year in the Republican-controlled Senate, but the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd that with other states passing similar laws, he thinks it has a chance this year.

"I was told by the Mormon Church that the sin of homosexuality is same as committing murder," said Esteban Lee-O'Neal, a homosexual.

Esteban Lee-O'Neal
Esteban Lee-O'Neal (credit: CBS)

Lee-O'Neal says gay conversion therapy didn't make him heterosexual, it made him suicidal.

"And these people are saying, 'We love you.' There is no love in telling someone that you are diseased, that your core self is wrong or sinful," Lee-O'Neal.

He's among those supporting the bill that would ban the therapy for anyone under age 18 in Colorado.

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver
Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver (credit: CBS)

"You cannot be converting kids to be somebody who they're not," Rosenthal said. "That is fraudulent practice and I think that is damaging."

"Nobody is out there saying we offer conversion therapy," said Jeff Johnston with Focus on the Family.

Johnston says conversion therapy isn't defined. He says what the bill would ban is any therapy for kids who are sexually conflicted -- the kind of therapy he says helped him.

Jeff Johnston
CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Jeff Johnston with Focus on the Family (credit: CBS)

"I was able to understand some of the reasons why I was struggling with same sex attraction and find some healing for those reasons as well," Johnston said.

Johnston says licensing boards can already punish fraudulent therapists.

"Often it's under guise of just Christian counseling," said Brad Allen, an education specialist at Urban Peak, a nonprofit that provides services for youth.

But Allen says they can't punish them if they don't know who they are.

Brad Allen
Brad Allen is interviewed by CBS4's Shaun Boyd (credit: CBS)

"I feel lucky that I survived it, and that's why I'm doing my best to ban it, so nobody ever thinks it's real," Allen said.

Almost all of the mental health groups in the state are supporting the bill.

California and New Jersey have already outlawed the therapy and New York is also considering a ban on it.

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