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Gov's exec order stakes stand

Conversion therapy banned in Puerto Rico

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The governor of Puerto Rico signed an executive order banning so-called conversion therapy for gay or transgender minors on the island, reports Concepción de León for The New York Times.

The decision came after Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives refused to vote on a bill that would have prohibited conversion therapy, a discredited practice that proponents claim can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The measure passed the Senate this month.

“I firmly believe that the idea that there are people in our society who need treatment because of their gender identity or whom they love is not only absurd, it is harmful to so many children and young adults who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said in a statement last week announcing his plans.

The original bill, introduced by Senators Eduardo Bhatia and Zoé Laboy Alvarado last spring, sought to ban conversion therapy among licensed medical professionals and in religious institutions that receive state funding.

The House refused to vote on the bill or hold public hearings for survivors of conversion therapy. The House speaker, Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló, said in an interview that there was little evidence the practice was widely used in Puerto Rico. Members of the House also felt that the definition of conversion therapy was “too broad” and could potentially include other types of rehabilitation therapy, such as for drug addiction, he said.

Mr. Rodríguez Aguiló insisted the decision had “nothing to do” with discrimination against the L.G.B.T. community. “This is purely about a legislation that lacks information, that doesn’t have statistics, and we want to act based on the information that can be offered,” he said.

“I firmly believe that the idea that there are people in our society who need treatment because of their gender identity or whom they love is not only absurd, it is harmful,” Gov. Rosselló said.

Ms. Laboy Alvarado said the House’s decision was “erroneous, wrong, and causes harm to our youth.”

She added, “The reality is that even if only one young person was put through it, that’s enough because of the harm that we’re causing them and our responsibility to protect minors.”

Alejandro Santiago Calderón, an activist who said he was forced to undergo conversion therapy in Puerto Rico, interpreted the House’s actions as an attempt to silence gay rights activists.