BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A bill looking to ban the controversial practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth stalled in committee Wednesday. Advocates are hoping the fight is not over yet – while religious groups push back.

Rep. Mandie Landry said that LGBTQ youth from around the state reached out to her to look into the issue of conversion therapy being practiced in Louisiana. Conversion therapy has been widely discredited by medical professionals across the country as ineffective and also harmful to LGBTQ youth. The Human Rights Campaign cites the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry stating:

“The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds no evidence to support the application of any ‘therapeutic intervention’ operating under the premise that a specific sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression is pathological. Furthermore, based on the scientific evidence, the AACAP asserts that such ‘conversion therapies’ (or other interventions imposed with the intent of promoting a particular sexual orientation and/or gender as a preferred outcome) lack scientific credibility and clinical utility. Additionally, there is evidence that such interventions are harmful. As a result, ‘conversion therapies’ should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents.”

There are still some hangups in the committee over religious beliefs and the definition of what this therapy is.

A number of social workers and psychologists spoke about the practice dramatically increasing the rate of mental health issues and suicide in LGBTQ youth who are forced into it. One student read a testimony from an individual who had been subjected to conversion therapy by their pastor, describing it as torture.

HB605 would ban the practice by licensed medical professionals and would make it punishable by their medical boards. Twenty states across the nation have already banned the use of conversion therapy, none in the Deep South.

“I did not hear one medical professional, and we sit on the Health and Welfare committee and they are here every meeting, come up and testify against this bill. This is not an anti-Christian bill, this is a human rights bill,” Rep. Joseph Stagni said.

The main opposition came from religious groups who claimed it would take away the right to religious teachings. The bill does not say anything about a ban on such things and religious groups can still take part in the practice. Rep. Raymond Crews said the bill was not inclusive enough by not mentioning heterosexual people. He went on to say people need to follow “what God intended for us.”

“As far as I know, Louisiana law still prohibits sodomy so I just don’t see how this meshes with this bill,” Rep. Crews, R-Bossier City, said.

The sodomy law is still on the books in Louisiana despite it being found unconstitutional on the federal level in the early 2000s. 

After a dispute over the language of the bill regarding parental consent, a motion to involuntarily defer the bill failed. But a vote to advance the bill to the full House failed with a vote of 6-6. Rep. Landry voluntarily deferred the bill in hopes to work with members to bring it back. Some advocates saw it as a hopeful future for the discussion.

“I think it is realistic. I think there were a couple specific people in there that that was their hang up,” advocate Britain Forsyth said.

They hope with a change in the definition of the therapy, some who voted against the bill may let it out of committee.