By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – On Wednesday, March 4, Oklahoma City based Freedom Oklahoma, and Tulsa based Oklahomans for Equality will host Lobby Day 2020. The event, themed “Make Your Voice Heard,” will be held at the Oklahoma State Capitol, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Activities will begin with advocacy training at 9:30 a.m. At 11 a.m., participants will break into groups to visit state representatives’ offices. The event will be followed by lunch sponsored by Dell Technologies.
“Allies are invited to arrive early to support the LGBTQ+ communities, and to welcome trans and queer folks to the people’s house, “said Allie Shinn, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma,
“We ask that you arrive at 9 a.m. and gather at the south entrance to the Capitol, to welcome people when they arrive.”
Parking is available in the south and east lots and Freedom Oklahoma will provide signs.
On February 12, House Bill 3872, authored by Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City), titled the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, was approved in a bipartisan vote and will now move to the full state House.
The bill would prohibit licensed counselors from practicing “conversion therapy,” which is the practice of converting someone who identifies as gay or bisexual to heterosexual through counseling. The legislation was first introduced last year, but it was never read in committee.
“We know that sexual orientation and gender identity cannot and do not need to be changed, and we know that no one should try. HB 3872, by Rep. Dunnington, would protect our youth from this harmful practice and move Oklahoma closer to a state that is safe and affirming for us all,” said Shinn.
Freedom Oklahoma works to secure equality and legal protection for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer people through advocacy, public education, coalition building, and empowerment in the civic process.
“Lobby Day is designed to help you build relationships with your legislators and support the issues you care about through advocacy training,” Shinn said. Experienced or not, we want to see you there.”
Utah, recently became the 19th state to ban conversion therapy, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Supporters of the bill hope to make Oklahoma the 20th.
The American Medical Association states on its website: “Underlying these techniques is the assumption that homosexuality and gender identity are mental disorders and that sexual orientation and gender identity can and should be changed. This assumption is not based on medical and scientific evidence.
“Conversion therapy hurts children, period,” Shinn told KOCO reporter Cassandra Sweetman.
According to 2019 survey from the Trevor Project, an organization that works on LGBTQ youth suicide prevention, LGBTQ youth who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who did not.
Earlier this legislative session, Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) introduced Senate Bill 1819, which would impose professional penalties — including the loss of a medical license — on those who provide trans health care to minors. The bill was defeated.
“We have a long way to go, but we are heartened by the committee members who voted in favor of protecting our youth, and moving Oklahoma one step closer to a place that is welcoming to all who call this state home,” said Shinn, in a press release.
“Join us and Oklahomans for Equality at the Capitol on March 4th to tell your representatives to support H.B. 3872,” said Shinn. “Together we can build the Oklahoma we deserve.”