Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House discuss a bill on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Concord, N.H. Credit: Holly Ramer | AP

The New Hampshire House on Thursday narrowly passed a bill that would ban therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.

The House approved the bill 179-171 a month after voting it down by a single vote. The bill now heads to the Senate.

“Conversion therapy is a harmful and damaging practice which attempts to shame young people into changing their sexual orientation or identity,” Rep. Ed Butler, D-Hart’s Location, said in a statement afterward. “This legislation simply forbids licensed practitioners from practicing conversion therapy on minor children.”

Supporters of the measure say the therapy is inappropriate, ineffective and harmful. But opponents say there’s no evidence it happens in the state, and that state licensing boards already have the authority to regulate and discipline any practitioner who uses coercive tactics.

Opponents also raised concerns that well-meaning counselors and teachers could face criminal charges for helping heterosexual teens who have temporary same-sex crushes.

“Quietly lurking in the bill is prohibition against gentle client-affirming talk therapy,” said Rep. Mark Pearson, R-Hampstead. Butler said the bill does not restrict such counseling.

Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group in New Hampshire, agreed, saying the bill is about banning talk therapy between a therapist and a minor who wants to address unwanted same-sex attraction. Kathy Edelblut, the wife of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, had urged legislators to oppose a ban, saying it would interfere with clinical relationships and undermine parental rights.

Leaders of the New Hampshire Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBT Republicans and allies, said they were encouraged by the vote.

“Homosexuality is not a condition to be cured or a choice to be ostracized. Young people who are struggling with their sexual orientation need our love, encouragement and support,” they said in a statement.

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