The Seattle City Council yesterday unanimously approved an ordinance protecting youth from the discredited and dangerous practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” The measure, which imposes civil penalties on licensed mental health professionals who provide the harmful practice to minors, will become effective two months after openly-gay Mayor Ed Murray signs it. Seattle will become the third municipality—behind Cincinnati, Ohio and Miami Beach, Florida—to enact such legislation.
“Conversion therapy,” sometimes referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts” or “reparative therapy,” encompasses a range of practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured, a theory that has been rejected for decades by every major medical and mental health organization.
California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, D.C. currently have laws protecting LGBTQ minors from “conversion therapy” and more than 20 states introduced similar legislation this year. New York adopted regulations earlier this year protecting youth from “conversion therapy.”
There is no credible evidence that “conversion therapy” can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people. Use of these dangerous practices lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. That’s why they are universally condemned by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.
HRC congratulates Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, Legal Voice, Equal Rights Washington, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and other local activists for working to protect LGBTQ young people across the great city of Seattle.
NCLR and HRC have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation to end this dangerous practice.