Puerto Rico’s Governor Issues Executive Order Protecting Youth from Dangerous “Conversion Therapy"

by Milagros Chirinos

Puerto Rico joins 15 states and Washington, D.C. in protecting minors from the discredited practice.

HRC released the following statement on Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello’s historic executive action protecting LGBTQ youth across Puerto Rico from the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”

“We commend Governor Rossello for his leadership in issuing this order to protect LGBTQ minors in Puerto Rico,” said HRC Senior Legislative Counsel Xavier Persad. “The dangerous and debunked practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ not only doesn’t work -- it can have life-threatening consequences. This is why it has been condemned by every major medical association in our country. Puerto Rico now joins 15 other states and the District of Columbia in protecting LGBTQ minors from this despicable practice and sending a message that these youth should be affirmed and embraced.”

The Governor’s executive order takes effect immediately and requires the Secretary of Health, the Administrator of the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration and the Secretary of Economic Development and Trade to issue regulations within 90 days restricting licensed health care facilities and workers from engaging in the harmful practice.

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

Since July 2018, transgender people in the U.S. commonwealth have been able to update the gender marker on their birth certificates and the commonwealth's employment nondiscrimination laws include sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite progress, homophobia and transphobia continue to pose a threat to LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.

This decision adds Puerto Rico to a growing number of states across the nation and Washington, D.C., that have protections against “conversion therapy” for minors. In January, New York became the 15th state to enact legislation to protect youth from the dangerous practice.