Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed a bill banning medical professionals from practicing “conversion therapy” on minors, a major win for LGBTQ youth in the state. Virginia is the first state in the South, and the 20th in the country, to outlaw the practice.
Conversion therapy, the practice of attempting to change someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, has been condemned by national health associations and widely debunked. About 350,000 LGBTQ Americans underwent conversion therapy as minors, typically in the form of talk therapy. Conversion therapy draws on the antiquated idea that LGBTQ identities are curable mental illnesses, and it can have detrimental effects on those who are subjected to it.
“Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” said Governor Northam in a press release. “This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effects on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide. No one should be made to feel they are not okay the way they are—especially not a child. I’m proud to sign this ban into law.”
The law, HB 386, forbids any health care practitioner licensed by the state from subjecting someone under the age of 18 to “any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.” The ban will go into effect on July 1.
HB 386 is the first LGTBQ rights bill signed by Northam this year, but several others are expected to reach his desk soon, including the Viriginia Values Act, a broad anti-discrimination bill passed by the General Assembly in February.
Sources: New York Times 3/3/20; NBC News 3/3/20