This article first appeared in HRC’s Equality magazine. View the latest issue at hrc.org/magazine.

Anti-LGBTQ extremists are harming young people, all so they can push their discriminatory agenda. Fortunately, progress has been made in protecting vulnerable LGBTQ youth, too. In 2018, legislation from both anti-equality and pro-equality politicians has focused on youth, with harmful bills pushing discrimination in child welfare services and positive legislation aimed at protecting minors from  the harmful practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”

In 2018, the only anti-LGBTQ state bills to be signed into law were youth-focused. In Oklahoma and Kansas, Gov. Mary Fallin and Gov. Jeff Colyer signed into law “license to discriminate” bills that allow child welfare organizations -- including adoption and foster care agencies -- to turn away qualified prospective parents seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents and married couples in which one parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.

This type of legislation shrinks the pool of prospective parents, which can lead to children staying in the child welfare system even longer. Politicians should be focusing on expanding the pool of parents, not shrinking it.

While anti-LGBTQ extremists are willing to harm youth to push a radical agenda, pro-equality advocates have ramped up our efforts to protect some of the most vulnerable youth among us.

This year, several states enacted new legislation to protect against the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” In 2018, Delaware, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii and New Hampshire all signed into law legislation that prevents state-licensed health care providers from engaging in this harmful practice with minors.

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 such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association.

Anti-equality politicians and extremists have shown that they have no problem punishing youth to pursue discriminatory legislation. We must stand strong against this type of legislation and continue pushing for legislation that protects our kids.

Lawmakers will only continue to take steps toward equality if we continue to hold their feet to the fire. As legislation targeting LGBTQ people continues to pop up across the country, it is more important than ever to elect pro-equality politicians — up and down the ballot — who will fight anti-equality legislation and fight to protect their LGBTQ constituents.

Visit HRC’s Voting Center to ensure you’re registered to vote and find your polling place: hrc.org/vote


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