N.H. House Passes Bill Banning Gay Conversion Therapy After Legislative Do-Over

Feb 8, 2018

The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would ban gay conversion therapy for minors.

They did that – even though they voted the same bill down just last month. It was legislative do-over made by possible by one representative’s simple mistake.

In January, when House bill 587 came to the floor, Democratic Representative Henry Parkhurst already knew what his vote would be.

The bill would ban conversion therapy – defined in the measure as any treatment that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I don’t want children being told that what they’re doing is wrong and they need to be repaired.”

Whether to vote yes or no on a bill that bans something can be a little confusing. But Parkhurst thought he had it right.

That day, the bill was defeated by a single vote.

But afterwards, Parkhurst got to thinking.

“As I thought it through, I realized that I had misunderstood what the vote really was.”

Parkhurst realized he pressed the wrong button.

“And I’m just aghast that I did such a stupid thing.”

He says he immediately requested a reconsideration. That’s a parliamentary procedure where a bill can get a second chance if someone who voted on the prevailing side wants to change their vote.

All that set the stage for Thursday’s House session and a re-debating of the bill.

There were opponents like Republican Representative Mark Pearson, who runs a Christian healing ministry.

“The good ol’ family doc or the wise caring counselor could not say that such same-sex attractions are a developmental norm – that most people go through them and that most work through them.”

There were supporters, like Democratic Representative Ed Butler.

"This bill encourages good counseling and therapy. What it prohibits is what every reputable professional physical and mental health care organization around the world says is damaging to the well-being of all children and teenagers: conversion therapy."

But the bill’s second time around allowed for more than just the rehashing of the debate. About 20 state reps who weren’t present for the first vote had a chance to weigh in.

With their votes, the bill passed this time.

It now heads to a receptive senate, and a governor who says he’ll sign it.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Republican Representative Eric Schleien, says he wasn’t surprised by the bill’s unorthodox journey.

“Anything that’s made an impact in the world, things change through conversations and it usually takes more than one.”

In this case -- a few conversations and one big oops.