While the legislative process may sometimes seem far removed from engineering, two Mines students are utilizing their experiences and involvement to advocate for the abolition of conversion therapy.
Colorado HB1156 prohibits licensed health professionals from performing conversion therapy on patients under the age of 18.
The bill defines conversion therapy as “efforts that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
“Most of the time when a child is put through conversion therapy, they have an increased risk for depression, self-harm, and suicide,” explained Noah McQueen, an undergraduate student studying chemical engineering.
McQueen testified in favor of HB1156 at the Colorado State Capitol on Feb. 28 with fellow chemical engineering undergraduate student Jacob Schuler.
“At the oSTEM national conference last semester I heard an individual talk about their experience going through conversion therapy and it made me think about it,” Schuler recalled. “I did some more research into it and found that only five states had it banned.”
Schuler discovered that Colorado Representative Paul Rosenthal had been working on a bill to end conversion therapy for minors for the past two years and decided to organize a petition to support Rosenthal’s bill.
“We were trying to show that people cared and to show that this is a bipartisan issue that needs to be taken care of,” Schuler stated.
Schuler and McQueen worked with Mines’ oSTEM chapter to circulate the petition, which now has more than 500 signatures. In addition to CSM, the petition was also circulated at University of Denver and University of Colorado at Boulder.
A diverse group of people testified both in support of and against the bill, including individuals who had undergone conversion therapy, parents, religious practitioners, and representatives from the LGBT bar association.
“There were probably 20-25 people who testified in favor of the bill and each of them had their own story to tell up at the podium,” McQueen stated. “It was just interesting to see both sides and the legal arguments on both sides as well as just an interesting look into our legislative system.”
Although the bill does not affect conversion therapy by religious institutions, opponents of the bill cite concerns for personal freedom and the availability of a service that they believe should be a parent’s personal choice.
HB1156 passed in the House on Mar. 1, but the Senate, with a current Republican majority, is likely to present a greater challenge.
“It will be a little bit of a tougher bill in the Senate since it has 18 Republicans and 17 Democrats and for some reason this bill tends to go along party lines pretty strictly,” McQueen explained. McQueen and Schuler will likely continue their involvement with the issue and may testify for the senate bill as well.
In the meantime, they will continue raising awareness for the issue and will likely be contacting Senate President Kevin Grantham to further support the bill.
“My dad considered sending me to conversion therapy when I was younger and it makes me think about what I could have ended up as,” Schuler expressed. “ I just don’t want that same pain to be on any other child that tries just to live their life as they want to live it.”
McQueen had several friends who went through conversion therapy and now has a similar passion for supporting the issue.
“They didn’t seem like a full person anymore after having gone through the therapy and it struck me as something that should have been banned a long time ago,” he stated. “I just knew that I wanted to help make a difference.”