Politics & Government

House Dems push for trio of bills to promote gay rights, ban conversion therapy

Corrected at 3:45 p.m. March 29, 2019. see details in story.

House Democrats introduced three gay-rights bills Thursday that would repeal the remains of HB2; make it illegal to practice conversion therapy on minors and disabled adults; and expand North Carolina’s anti-discrimination laws to include gender identity, sexual orientation and military or veteran status.

House Bills 514, 515 and 516 were announced at a news conference in the legislative building by some of the bills’ sponsors and representatives from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

“This historic slate of legislation is a collective effort towards making life more equitable and safe for queer North Carolinians who deserve the basic dignity of living, loving and growing without fear of prejudice or violence,” said Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, who attended the event. “Together, we can build a state that enables LGBTQ folks from all walks of life to prosper and show the world that North Carolina truly is a beautiful place to be queer.” (The name of Equality NC has been corrected.)

Kendra Johnson, executive director, Equality North Carolina Martha Quillin The News & Observer

Johnson said North Carolina continues to lose out on business that would come to the state if not for the incomplete repeal in 2017 of HB2, known widely as “the bathroom bill.” HB2 forbade local anti-discrimination laws and, in government buildings, required people to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates.

Under pressure from businesses and especially from organizers of sporting events who said they would not operate in North Carolina, legislators partially repealed HB2 in 2017, leaving in place a moratorium on local anti-discrimination laws until December 2020.

House Bill 515 would repeal the sections of state law that were left in place as a result of the compromise.

House Bill 514 would add language to existing state anti-discrimination laws that cover housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, education, insurance and jury service. The changes would prohibit discrimination on the bases of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, military or veteran status and genetic information.

House Bill 516 would put in place professional penalties for therapists, counselors and others who practice conversion therapy on minors and adults with disabilities.

Conversion therapy, also called reparative or ex-gay therapy, is touted as a way to “cure” same-sex attraction. The American Psychological Association and others have said it lacks scientific support and can cause psychological harm.

More than a dozen states have passed laws restricting its use.

Along with introducing the three bills, LGBTQ advocacy groups announced Thursday the launch of Born Perfect NC, a campaign against conversion therapy in the state. It is described by purveyors online as talk therapy. Opponents have said that it sometimes includes aversion therapy tactics such as electric shock, sleep deprivation and starvation.

The Rev. Douglas Long, senior minister of Umstead Park United Church of Christ, who spoke at the event, called the practice child abuse.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.