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Gay 'conversion therapy' bill withdrawn as advocates pursue regulatory oversight

Gay rights advocates and the state legislator who introduced legislation this session to ban so-called "gay conversion therapy" in Maryland have withdrawn the bill, saying they will instead pursue regulatory oversight of the controversial practice.

"If we can do this without legislation, I am all about it," said Baltimore County Del. John Cardin, the bill's sponsor, in a statement Friday. "I am not interested in the glory. I'm interested in solving problems."

Cardin's bill would have banned mental health professionals, but not unlicensed church clergy or therapists, from engaging in efforts to change a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Cardin and Equality Maryland, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, called the practice dangerous, citing critical opinions of it from multiple medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

Equality Maryland, which backed Cardin's bill, said it would have established a law comparable to those in other states, including California and New Jersey.

Cardin pointed specifically to the Bowie-based International Healing Foundation as a Maryland-based practitioner of the practice.

On its website, the group says it believes in people's "right of self-determination," and that "homosexual feelings are not inborn."

In a joint statement Friday, Cardin and Equality Maryland officials said that in research for the bill, and in talking to "several organizations with expertise in regulatory protections for patients," they concluded that patients who feel they have been harmed by "conversion" or "reparative" therapy already have avenues to complain to state health occupation boards.

"Minors or anyone advocating on their behalf can file a complaint with a board, triggering a vigorous investigation," the statement said. "If the investigation uncovers proof that a licensed health care professional violated the standard of care, then the board has an array of regulatory tools to keep this from happening again."

The statement went on: "Delegate Cardin and Equality Maryland are confident that the existing regulatory framework provides a precise tool to protect minors from this harmful therapy, and we will work together and with other advocates to ensure that the process for filing complaints against anyone who engages in these practices is transparent and widely disseminated."

Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland's executive director, said the organization will "work to ensure LGBT youth and their parents have the information they need to file complaints."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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