Rhode Island is one step closer to outlawing conversion therapy

Story highlights The bill would update the nondiscrimination policy in Rhode Island to prohibit sex orientation and gender identity-based discrimination in insurance coverage

Under the new bill, health care providers may not provide services aimed at changing sexual orientation or gender identity

As the modern LGBTQ community has faced rising physical and mental health concerns — especially as LGBTQ parents have raised children who weren’t always able to be out to their families — lawmakers in at least eight states have been considering efforts to pass laws that would ban conversion therapy, a controversial practice that aims to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of Rhode Island legislators introduced a bill that seeks to ban conversion therapy in the state. The proposed legislation would update the nondiscrimination policy in Rhode Island to prohibit sex orientation and gender identity-based discrimination in insurance coverage, Massachusetts would also have the legal ability to protect the LGBT community from being denied coverage, Rhode Island also requires insurance coverage for various types of mental health care.

Providers would not be able to offer certain types of conversion therapy that targets the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity — such as prepubescent children, hazing in schools, and male-to-female gender identity change procedures.

“By ending insurance discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, the bill will level the playing field for all Rhode Islanders who seek care. It will also finally ensure that all health insurance policies cover medically necessary mental health services, and will protect LGBTQ Rhode Islanders who already confront discrimination on a daily basis,” Rhode Island State Rep. Diana Urban, the co-chair of the Rhode Island LGBTQ Caucus, says in a statement.

This type of legislation has been passed in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. But some critics say that banning conversion therapy still doesn’t go far enough — they’d like to see some type of legalization enacted.

At the same time, opponents of conversion therapy say it doesn’t serve any purpose, and violates the fundamental legal protections of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and that doesn’t even prohibit the practice of conversion therapy.

So if the bill is approved, will it still affect LGBTQ conversion therapy? No.

The legislation as it stands would only be applicable to life insurance coverage, which would not affect those in private insurance, public insurance or Medicaid coverage.

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