Republicans on the state Senate Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs — including Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs — killed a bill that would have banned conversion therapy in Colorado for LGBT people under age 18. House Bill 1175 would have prohibited licensed and registered mental health professionals from engaging in the practice, with violations punishable through professional boards.
In an email to supporters that was obtained by the Denver Post, Hill stated, "I was one of the 'no' votes on this bill as I am hesitant to use the heavy hand of government to take away the dignity of choice in cases where individuals want this therapy."
Conversion therapy is aimed at turning gay people straight, but many see the practice as damaging. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from their lists of mental illnesses in the 1970s.
"Conversion therapy is nothing short of abusive," the bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, stated in a press release. "Not only is it ineffective, it harms children. It can cause depression, substance abuse problems, and even suicide."
Around the time that Colorado Senators were killing HB 1175, President Barack Obama was condemning conversion therapy. Obama posted his opposition to the practice on the White House website, after being urged to do so by petition-gatherers seeking a nationwide ban on the practice.
"Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let's say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he's held as long as he can remember," Obama stated on the website. "Soon, perhaps, he will decide it's time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build."
The petition was in response to the suicide of 17-year-old transgender girl Leelah Alcorn, who was forced by her parents to go to conversion therapy. Alcorn, of Ohio, posted a suicide note to Tumblr calling for change and saying she felt damaged by the therapy her parents forced her to endure.
"My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to Christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression," she wrote. "I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help."
Alcorn was struck by a tractor-trailer on the interstate.