LGBTQ protection bills advance in state Senate

Would ban conversion therapy, require healthcare worker training

OLYMPIA — Two LGBTQ rights bills advanced Jan. 16 out of the state Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee.

SB 5722 would ban the practice of any form of therapy that intends to change a person’s sexual orientation, commonly known as conversion therapy.

“This is a critical policy,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, the committee’s chairwoman. “It’s critically important to better ensure that we prevent any pain and suffering, particularly for children in our state.”

State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-Lewisville, said she originally signed on as a bill co-sponsor to allow for conversation and research. However, she advised a “no” vote on the bill, saying statutes were already in place to protect children from bad medical and psychiatric practices and that parents should have a right to seek multiple options of therapy for their children.

“I have a grave concern that we will have a chilling effect in our psychiatric community,” Rivers told lawmakers.

The bill advanced out of committee. Next: the Rules Committee.

Another bill, SB 5700, would require long-term healthcare providers and workers to undergo one hour of training on the needs of patients who are LGBTQ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. The bill’s substitute adds onto the bill a mandate for owners and administration for assisted living homes to undergo two hours of training by their next license renewal date. The state Department of Health and Social Services is in charge of developing a training curriculum.

State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, is the bill’s prime sponsor.

“No one wants to be discriminatory, but some folks don’t have the understanding and training they need,” he said at a hearing on Jan. 11.

Patricia Mcintyre, a trainer for Tacoma Older LGBT and Generations Aging with Pride, said older LGBTQ adults sometimes receive a lower quality of care, are afraid to disclose their sexual orientation, or delay treatment based on fear of discrimination.

John Ficker, executive director of the Adult Family Home Council said he supports the bill but has some concerns. He urged lawmakers to consider the way the training would be phased into existing training, in order to ensure a smooth transition. He also expressed concerns about how employees would be compensated for training, who would for the training, and whether assisted-living homes would have enough time to put a curriculum in place.

Rivers urged the committee to vote “no” on the bill. She said healthcare professionals already receive non-discriminatory training.

“I think it’s critical to ensure that training specific to the needs of the LGBTQ patients are met,” Cleveland said urging the committee to vote yes.

The majority voted to advance the bill to the Rules Committee.

— Taylor McAvoy is a reporter for WNPA Olympia News Bureau.