Virginia has officially outlawed conversion therapy! The Virginia Senate voted in favor of the ban on Monday, and Governor Ralph Northam just signed the new bill into law.
Virginia is the first state in the South and the 20th state in the country to ban the harmful and discredited practice.
Conversion therapy aims to change an LGBTQ+ patient’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity through “counseling” and “psychotherapy” sessions. These methods have been shown to be not only ineffective but also outright dangerous to patients’ mental health. They may result in depression or even suicide attempts.
Over a dozen national medical organizations have issued statements against the practice, include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American Psychological Association.
Virginia’s bill has been years in the making. LGBTQ+ youth advocacy organizations such as the Trevor Project played a large role in the bill’s success, and several Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in the effort.
“As a survivor of this dangerous and fraudulent practice, I can’t fathom just how many LGBTQ+ lives may be saved with these critical protections from conversion therapy,” Sam Brinton, the head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project said in a statement. “At The Trevor Project, we hear from LGBTQ+ youth in crisis every day and we know that those who are subjected to conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide. This bold action will send a message to all LGBTQ+ young people in the great Commonwealth of Virginia that they are loved and deserve support.”
The new ban takes effect on July 1, 2020. It applies only to patients under 18 years old and to licensed health professionals, such as counselors and psychologists.
Other states that have passed similar bans include New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Maine, as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.