Political News

Ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ children advances in Virginia legislature

Posted February 5, 2020 1:55 p.m. EST

— A bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors is making its way through Virginia's state Senate after the House of Delegates approved the measure earlier this week.

The law, which is currently before the Senate's education and health committee but is ultimately expected to pass the Democratically controlled chamber, would add the commonwealth to a growing list of states that have issued similar bans.

The legislation would make it illegal for licensed professionals in the state to engage in conversion therapy for Virginians under the age of 18, and would prohibit state funds from being used to conduct the practice on minors. Conversion therapy is an attempt to forcibly change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. It does not work, and studies show that those subjected to it, or who choose to undergo it, are put at a greater risk of depression and suicide.

House Bill 386 was passed by the Democratic-led chamber by a bipartisan vote of 66-27 on Monday. The bill is now in the hands of the state's Senate, which approved a companion bill late last month.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is prepared to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

"This is a dangerous practice that harms LGBTQ youth. There is no place for that here or anywhere," Northam said in a statement.

The potential ban would add to a growing list of progressive measures Virginia's legislature has approved since Democrats took control of the General Assembly last November. It would also make the state the 20th to outlaw the practice for minors. Last month, Utah's Republican governor issued a ban on the practice for minors after an effort to end the practice in the conservative state stalled in the legislature.

The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that works on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, applauded the Virginia House of Delegates for approving the measure in a statement on Tuesday.

"Conversion therapy is widely discredited, opposed by nearly every major medical association, and has shown to produce negative mental health outcomes," said Sam Brinton, the head of advocacy and government affairs for the group. "We urge the Virginia Senate and Governor Northam to take swift action to enshrine these vital protections into law."

Every major medical and mental health professional organization, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, have found no evidence to support conversion therapy and consider it a discredited medical practice.

In addition to Utah, 18 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have banned conversion therapy for young people, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

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