ATLANTA — Before there was pride for gay and transgender people, there was stigma. Before there was acceptance, there was "conversion therapy" – wherein people tried to change sexual identity or orientation with a type of psychotherapy.

Peter Nunn of Norcross says he was 15 when his parents took him to a conversion therapist.

"I never fit the role they thought a traditional Christian boy should fit," Nunn told 11Alive News. "I was told that if I was gay, I would never be able to be happy, that I would never be in a happy healthy relationship and that I would die from AIDS."

Peter Nunn
Peter Nunn says he was 15 when his father took him to a conversion therapist.
WXIA

Nunn was a witness before a House committee Tuesday, telling members he attempted suicide afterward and spent five years in depression.

READ: What happens in gay conversion therapy?

House Bill 580 would make it illegal for a licensed therapist to apply conversion therapy to anyone under the age of 18. To do so would put at risk the practitioner’s professional license.  It exempts “counseling that provides acceptance, support and understanding.”

"Conversion therapy practices have no basis in science and contradict the understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity," said Roland Behm of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention during testimony.

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Doctors told the House panel that conversion therapy is outside of the mainstream – more dangerous to its patients than it is helpful. There was no vote, but lawmakers sounded upbeat about the measure. A Republican-led subcommittee organized the hearing for the Democratic-backed bill.

"We ask simply that Georgia to join the 15 other states and the District of Columbia who have already banned this incredibly harmful practice," said state Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven), the bill's sponsor.

The bill would only affect licensed therapists. It would not apply to clergy.

Its prospects are long term. It missed crossover day and is more likely to get traction in next year’s session of the legislature.

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