A newly passed Alabama state law lauded as protection for teenagers at faith-based youth programs was stripped of language that would have restricted sexual orientation “conversion therapy,” after pressure from a conservative policy group with close ties to the bill’s sponsor.
The Alabama Child Residential Abuse Protection Act, HB440, was introduced in the wake of an ABC News investigation detailing serious abuses committed against teens at two youth camps practicing “conversion therapy” in the state. The bill, which strengthened oversight of faith-based youth residential programs that were previously exempt from regulation, originally mandated that program operators “not engage in or perform any sexual orientation change effort on any person under 18 years of age.”
That language, as well as a provision prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, was removed from the bill before it passed the House, sailed through the Senate and was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey. The bill’s sponsor says he doesn’t remember how it happened.
“I do not recall who took it out or how it came out,” Rep. Steve McMillan, a Republican from Baldwin County, told ABC News. “It could have been me, or it could have been the guy drafting.”
According to A. Eric Johnston, however, the president and general counsel of the Southeast Law Institute, which provides free legal assistance to “persons, churches and other religious organizations on religious, family and related issues,” McMillan removed the language at his behest.
“There existed other language dealing with reparative therapy (therapy to deal with homosexual issues), cultural sensitivity training and other objectionable and potentially problematical requirements,” wrote Johnston in a letter obtained by ABC News. “Rep. McMillan readily agreed to remove these, and it was not his intention they be included.”
McMillan told ABC News that he and Johnston are “longtime friends” and claimed…