An OU professor has drafted a piece of legislation that would make it illegal for a licensed medical or mental health care professional to participate in what's commonly referred to as conversion therapy.
The bill has been sponsored by Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, and will be shepherded through the political process by Freedom Oklahoma, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of Oklahoma's LGBTQ community.
Sage Mauldin, who is a adjunct professor of human relations and an affiliate faculty member of the Women's and Gender Studies program at OU, said the bill is the result of years of work and conversations with friends about their experience with conversion therapy.
"Over the past two years, I've had conversations with friends who were subjected to conversion therapy when they were young. They all bear the psychological and emotional scars of conversion therapy," he said. "From a legislative standpoint, the question often was, 'Why isn't this banned in Oklahoma?' That question inspired me to take action."
Mauldin began with an online petition that garnered more than 7,000 signatures before beginning the legislative process.
Under the bill, licensed medical professionals who attempt to force someone to change their gender identity or sexual orientation would lose their license, Mauldin said.
Conversion therapy often results in depression, loss of faith, social withdrawal, shame, and an increased suicide rate, he said, adding 14 states and one province have already banned it.
The American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American School Counselor Association and National Association of Social Workers have repudiated conversion therapy, according to Mauldin.
"Sexual orientation and/or gender identity isn't something that can be or should be changed," he said. "Everyone should have the freedom to live life as their most authentic self.
"As an activist, educator and advocate, my vision is for Oklahoma to be a place where everyone, regardless of identity markers, can live free from discrimination, harassment and violence. By passing this ban, the legislature would ensure LGBTQ youth's safety and the protection of their rights."
Mauldin emphasized that the legislation does not apply to efforts to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity by non-licensed religious or faith-based counselors.
"I understand the importance of the separation between church and state, so that's why the bill is not addressing faith-based programs," he said.
Mauldin said getting Dunnington on board to sponsor the bill was significant.
"It was so important; it was relieving," he said. "He is very excited to sponsor the bill."
Freedom Oklahoma's Elizabeth Horn (email@example.com) is coordinating advocacy and outreach efforts.