Last week, Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law a ban on LGBTQ Youth “Conversion Therapy”, making Rhode Island the ninth state to regulate the abusive practice. Connecticut, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, and New Mexico—as well as Washington DC already have legislation or regulations banning or restricting conversion therapy.
Earlier this year, over 100 people testified in support of the law which prohibits conversion therapy providers from advertising to those under 18 or practicing conversion therapy on those under 18. However, adults can still undergo conversion therapy if they choose.
The term “conversion therapy” refers to a range of abusive practices performed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices, strongly denounced by the medical and mental health community, have included, among other things, electric shock treatment and induced nausea, vomiting, or paralysis, and have inflicted serious harm on LGBTQ people—including depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide. In a 2013 survey of over 400 people who had undergone some form of conversion therapy, more than 90 percent reported that they felt they were harmed in some way by the experience, and most felt that the harm was persistent.
In May, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to California’s ban on conversion therapy for minors. The challenge was brought by a Christian minister from San Jose, and others, who argued that the law violated religious freedom. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had previously rejected that argument, finding that the law was constitutional, leaving the ban in place.
On the federal level, Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act was introduced in Congress on April 25. If passed, it would classify as fraud all commercial conversion therapy and any advertising that claims to change sexual orientation or gender identity. The Act would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to enforce the law, but also allow individuals to sue in court.
Media Sources: The Providence Journal 7/19/2017, NBC News 7/20/2017, Huffington Post 2/2/16, Feminist Majority Foundation 5/10/17