Va. Assembly to consider bill to ban conversion therapy on LGBT youth

Va. House of Delegates LGBTQ Nation

RICHMOND, Va. — A bill that proposes to ban the use of controversial gay-to-straight conversion (or, reparative) therapy on LGBT youth in Virginia will go before the 2014 General Assembly.

Va. House of Delegates

Va. House of Delegates

The bill’s early language states that “under no circumstances” should a medical health provider try to change the sexual orientation of any person under the age of 18, and doing so would result in “discipline by the licensing entity” against the practitioner, according to early copy of the bill obtained by GayRVA.

“Seeing what has happened in California and New Jersey; it’s really encouraged me to put this bill forward,” said Delegate Patrick Hope, the bill’s chief patron, from his Northern Virginia office.

Hope said he was introduced more recently to the issue of ex-gay therapy after speaking with some constituents who had been forced into the process.

He said that after seeing what was happening in other states, and reading about the damage the treatment can cause, he threw his support behind the bill. “I think this is the right tome to have a conversation about it.”

The bill would ban the practice of conversation therapy on minors, and practicing psychologists could lose their license if they are found to be providing the treatment.

Nationally, the fight against ex-gay therapy has been met with push back from faith activists who say the bill limits freedom of religion and speech.

Both California and New Jersey have banned the treatment but legal challenges followed shortly after the bills were signed into law.

California’s ban was upheld at the federal level, and by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Another federal judge ruled made a similar ruling in November upholding the New Jersey law.

In May of 2012, the World Health Organization released a statement on the 20th anniversary of the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders, and took the chance to condemn the practice of conversation therapy.

“Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure. There is no medical indication for changing sexual orientation,” said Pan American Health Organization (With the WHO) Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago. “Practices known as “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy” represent “a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people.”

Equality Virginia’s Executive Director James Parish has put his LGBT-rights group’s weight behind the bill. Parish said when groups like the American Psychiatric Association and other major health organizations oppose the use of gay conversion therapy, it makes clear evidence that this so-called “treatment” is not only ineffective, but is also harmful to LGBT individuals.

‘It is time for Virginia to accept that one’s sexual orientation is not a disease or a disorder and banning gay conversation therapy is a step in the right direction,” said Parish in a statement.

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