With bills in the House and Senate, advocates, legislators and survivors gathered at the General Assembly building in Richmond Sunday to decry the practice of ex-gay therapy and approach a long passed-over topic with new hope.
The practice, which aims to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity through controversial psychological means, was called “dangerous” by Delegate Patrick Hope (D-43), the sponsor of HB 427. The senate versions of the bill are SB 262 and SB 267.
Hope, who has supported similar legislation for three years in a row, said conversion therapy stems from the false idea that “LGTBQ people, particularly children, are broken and some how need to be fixed.”
“There’s not an on/off switch [for sexuality],” he said.
Senator Scott Surovell (D-44), who has championed pro-LGBTQ bills in the past, joined Hope in submitting a Senate version of a bill which also aims to ban the practice on youth.
“[Conversion therapy] is akin to bleeding people to cure pneumonia,” Surovell said, stressing the “so called” therapy can actually cause short and long term harm to the patient. ”There’s a lot of antiquated medical practices from before we used science as the foundation for medical treatment. To me, this is exactly what this is.”
Surovell said the bills being discussed dealt only with using the treatment on children, and it would strip the license of any doctor who claimed to practice such a treatment.
He also admitted it was a rare time in which the government needed to step inside the relationship between child and parent.
“You have the right to raise your child as you see fit, but they don’t have the right to abuse their children or hurt their children as they see fit,” he said. “Children don’t have the ability to say ‘no,’ parents make that decision for them. And when parents are causing harm to their children, that’s when the government has the responsibility to step in and do something about it.”