HRC Urges Passage of DC Anti-Conversion Therapy Bill to Protect LGBT Youth

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTON– The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today urged the passage of DC B20-501, the District of Columbia’s “Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act of 2013.”

“No child should be subjected to this harmful and discredited so-called therapy,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC’s Legal Director. “Considering how extremely dangerous this pseudoscience can be, it’s very important for the sake of our city’s LGBT youth that this bill move forward quickly.”

Scheduled for markup on October 15th, the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act of 2013 is expected to move into the Committee of the Whole in early November. HRC, in partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, continues to play a lead role in organizing the coalition behind this bill.

So-called “conversion therapy,” sometimes referred to as sexual orientation change efforts or “reparative therapy,” is a range of dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.  These harmful practices are based on the false claim that being LGBT is a mental illness that should be cured. Unfortunately, young LGBT people may be coerced and subjected to these harmful practices, which can result in negative outcomes such as depression, substance abuse, and suicidality. Conversion therapy has been denounced by every mainstream medical and mental health association, including the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association.

The bill will prevent licensed mental health care providers in the District from conducting conversion therapy with youth under the age of 18. This legislation will:

·         Protect youth from being coerced into treatments which are ineffective and which can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and suicide.

·         Prevent parents from being taken advantage of by deceptive practitioners of conversion therapy.

·         Help ensure that LGBT young people receive mental health care that is ethical, affirming, and culturally competent.

·         Not affect religious or non-licensed counseling.

While we cannot know the precise number of youth who have been subjected to conversion therapy within the District, experts believe that up to one-third of LGBT youth experience attempts to change their identity, including by therapists.

Similar bans have been signed into law in California and New Jersey. In August of 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s ban which was signed into law by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. In September of this year, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey’s ban which was signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Christie in August of 2013.

More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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