HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers want to ban controversial gay conversion therapies for teens in Hawaii but some, including former Lt. Governor James "Duke" Aiona, believe it's a bad idea.
Aiona's nonprofit Hawaii Family Advocates is urging followers to testify against a legislative proposal now moving in the state House.
"What this ban does is it prevents someone who may have a religious belief, a spiritual belief that sexual orientation and sexual identification issues have to be addressed accordingly," Aiona said. "It really infringes on your first amendment right to practice your faith accordingly."
Conversion therapy aims to change a young person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. It's often part of faith-based effort. But groups like American Psychiatric Association oppose this form of therapy, saying it's unscientific and could cause harm to teens. About five states now prohibit these practices.
"These are already vulnerable individuals subject to higher levels of depression, suicide. So, conversion therapy that suggests that they are somehow defective is not helpful in these situations," said state Rep. Della Au Belatti, (D) Makiki.
The house bill not only seeks to bar teachers from applying this kind of therapy in schools. It also seeks disciplinary actions against therapists who advertise conversion therapy services.
"As for licensed professionals being able to practice this, if it's not a recommended best practice, then we shouldn't condone it," Au said.
The bill will be heard by the House health committee on Wednesday.