DES MOINES, Iowa — This legislative session, the advocacy group Iowa Safe Schools wants lawmakers to focus on issues harmful to Iowa’s LGBTQ youth.
Iowa Safe Schools is proposing bills to update the state’s suicide prevention and anti-bullying laws and add gender identity to Iowa’s hate crime law.
The Director of Public Policy and Communications for Iowa Safe Schools, Damian Thompson, said their biggest priority is getting a bill through that would ban conversion therapy in the state.
“Conversion therapy is this really barbaric practice where folks try to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through a variety of really nasty things,” Thompson said. “It could be electroshock therapy, psychological abuse or even inducing vomiting on the victim.”
Iowa Safe Schools is working with Republican State Rep. Bobby Kaufman, who will champion the bill in the House, and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, who will introduce the bill to the Senate.
Conversion therapy has been discredited by multiple health care organizations including the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, LGBTQ Americans who have been subjected to conversion therapy are nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression and eight times more likely to have attempted suicide.
Thompson said conversion therapy tis an issue plaguing the entire state of Iowa.
“A lot of people think it happens in rural Iowa, which it does. But also it’s happening in urban areas. Even in the central Iowa area here, folks are either doing it or they’re sending their children off to unknown places to have them victimized by it,” Thompson said. “So all of our issues are really universal to the state of Iowa, which is why we need to get it done this year.”
If this bill to ban conversion therapy passes this legislative session, Iowa would be only the second state to do so in a Republican-controlled legislature. Davenport’s city council has banned conversion camps for minors.