Hawaii lawmakers approve gay conversion therapy ban

HONOLULU— Hawaii lawmakers on Tuesday passed a measure that would ban sunscreen containing oxybenzone in an effort to protect coral reefs. Senators and representatives also voted to prohibit licensed professional counselors from attempting to change the sexual orientation of minors.

The votes came two days before this year’s session ends on Thursday.

Here are some of the bills approved by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature:

— SUNSCREEN BAN: Legislation that would ban the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Scientists have found that the two substances commonly found in many sunscreen lotions can kill coral, which are a vital part of the ocean ecosystem in Hawaii. The law would go into effect starting in 2021. Consumers would only be allowed to buy sunscreen with the two chemicals if they have a prescription from a licensed health care provider.

— GAY CONVERSION BAN: This bill would prohibit licensed professional counselors from attempting to change the sexual orientation of minors. The legislation says anyone who attempts to conduct such “gay conversion therapy” on people under 18 years old will be subject to disciplinary action by a professional licensing authority. At least a dozen states have passed laws banning the practice. California was the first, in 2012.

Many professional medical and mental health organizations, including the American Medical Association, oppose the practice of sexual orientation change therapy because studies have not shown it to be effective and have shown it can cause psychological harm.

— VOTE BY MAIL: A bill that would test the implementation of all-mail elections with a pilot program in Kauai County in 2020. Kauai voters could still vote in-person if they wanted at a limited number of centers. They will also have the option to drop off their ballots in person. The pilot program would be conducted during the primary and general elections that year. Three states — Colorado, Oregon and Washington — already have all-mail voting statewide. California will have an all-mail ballot in this year’s election.

The state Office of Elections supports transitioning to all-mail voting, saying it would make casting ballots more convenient and accessible. In the 2016 primary election, 54.4 percent of Hawaii voters voted by mail using an absentee ballot.

— KEEP OBAMACARE: A measure that would write selected provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, into state law in case it is ever repealed at the federal level. Among the measures Hawaii would incorporate: Extend dependent coverage for adult children up to 26 years old, prohibit health insurance companies from rejecting customers based on a pre-existing condition and prohibiting gender as a factor in determining premiums.

— SURRENDERING FIREARMS: A bill that would slash the amount of time people have to relinquish their firearms after being disqualified from gun ownership to seven days from the current 30. An individual could lose the right to possess a gun after being indicted, for example, or after being hit with a temporary restraining order. The measure is aimed at protecting people from domestic abusers.

Among the bills that died this session:

— KULEANA LANDS: The bill would have forced landowners into mediation before they would be allowed to file lawsuits to acquire small parcels, or kuleana lands, awarded to Hawaiian commoners during mid-19th century land reforms. The bill was introduced after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in late 2016 filed lawsuits to identify owners of 14 parcels interspersed within a 700-acre (283-hectare) oceanfront estate he owns on Kauai Island. His lawsuits, later withdrawn amid a public uproar, aimed to help him find the parcel owners so he could buy them out.

—OBAMA STATUE: A resolution requesting that the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts commission a statue of Hawaii-born former President Barack Obama.

— FOAM CONTAINER BAN — Legislation that would have prohibited the sale of polystyrene foam containers and the serving of prepared foods in polystyrene foam containers.

— VACATION RENTALS — Legislation would have allowed vacation rental brokers like Airbnb to collect taxes on behalf of vacation rental operators while requiring operators to show they are complying with state and county laws.


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