Young people were the leading topic of discussion in Oklahoma House of Representatives committee and subcommittee meetings Wednesday afternoon.
While one committee advanced legislation to effectively ban what is known as “conversion therapy” for minors and to change the treatment of juvenile offenders held for serious crimes, another voted to set up a state registry for traumatic brain injuries among young athletes.
And the full House passed and sent to the Senate a bill authorizing the collection and use of more economic data in determining child support.
Getting the most attention was House Bill 3872, by Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City. Named the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, it targets the use of therapies intended to “convert” nonheterosexual teens or those unsure of their sexuality to heterosexuality.
The American Psychological Association says it opposes therapy that is “based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a priori assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.”
Dunnington’s bill includes similar language and directs various licensing boards to take action, including the lifting of professional credentials, against mental health professionals engaged in conversion therapy.
The language, in fact, is quite similar to a bill passed by the House last week that would require professional boards to suspend for one year the licenses of doctors who perform abortions.
Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, the only child psychologist on the Children, Youth and Family Services Committee — or in the Legislature — argued against HB 3872, saying decisions about licensure should be left to licensing boards. He said some of the techniques he uses would be barred under the law.
Randleman said he is providing “Christlike” treatment to a student who is unsure of their sexuality.
“Good therapy does not have an outcome in mind,” said Dunnington. “Conversion therapy has an outcome in mind. What you would be doing wouldn’t be illegal (because) you wouldn’t try to change someone from gay to straight.”
Randleman, though, indicated that was more or less his intention.
“I am working toward a goal,” he said.
The bill passed 10-4 and goes to the full House.
The same committee also passed four bills by Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, that taken together try to separate youthful offenders from the adult corrections system.
All passed easily, but the one most likely to raise eyebrows, HB 3214, would move all youthful offenders to juvenile detention facilities, regardless of the charges.
“I know that’s a pretty big concern,” Lawson said. “The question is, if (violent offenders) are in a juvenile facility, will other children be safe? I believe they will.”
Lawson said housing youthful offenders in adult facilities strains jail staffs and can be dangerous for the offenders themselves. He said the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association supports the bill.
Elsewhere, an Appropriations and Budget subcommittee approved HB 3561, by Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, which would create a statewide registry for concussions or suspected concussions and deaths of athletes during practice or competitions.
Two Oklahoma teens died last year from traumatic brain injuries incurred in football games.