Lawmaker responds to anti-gay billboard with bill to ban ‘ex-gay’ therapy for minors

Patrick Hope

Patrick Hope

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia state lawmaker says he will bring a bill before the 2015 General Assembly aimed at banning gay-to-straight conversion therapy on LGBT youth.

Patrick Hope

Patrick Hope

PFOX billboard along Interstates 95/64 in Richmond, Va.

PFOX billboard along Interstates 95/64 in Richmond, Va.

The announcement by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) comes just days after a controversial billboard was erected along a Richmond interstate by a group that supports the practice.

“There’s is no on/off switch for sexual orientation, and putting this bill in is necessary to send that message,” said Hope.

The bill would prohibit licensed healthcare professionals from performing the controversial therapy (also referred to as “reparative therapy) on minors.

Hope says “ex-gay,” or conversion therapy, is based on the false assumption being gay is a mental disorder.

Proponents of the treatment argue that bans limit freedom of speech, and infringes on the rights of parents to treat their children as they see fit.

But Hope, and the medical community, disagrees.

The American Medical Association has decried the practice, saying it “opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”

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American Psychiatric Association echoed these concerns, saying the “potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.”

This isn’t the first time Hope has tried to push for legislation combating reparative therapy; last year, he proposed a similar bill but it failed to get out of committee.

The practice has already been banned in California and New Jersey, and attempts to overturn the bans in federal courts have been unsuccessful. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused consider a challenge to California’s ban, and an anti-gay group is seeking a similar high court review of New Jersey’s ban.

Last week, the D.C. Council approved a similar prohibition in the District of Columbia.

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