Governor Northam signed a bill outlawing the practice on Monday, bringing years of struggle by LGBTQ advocates to a victorious end.
Virginia has officially become the 20th state to prohibit conversion therapy for minors, and the first in the American South. House Bill 386, introduced by 47th District Delegate Patrick Hope, passed both houses of the General Assembly with some bipartisan support, and this week it crossed Northam’s desk and made it into Virginia law.
“This issue is personal for me, as a pediatric neurologist who has cared for thousands of children,” Northam said in a statement released to accompany the signing of the bill. “Conversion therapy is not only based in discriminatory junk-science, it is dangerous and causes lasting harm to our youth. No one should be made to feel wrong for who they are — especially not a child. I’m proud to sign this ban into law.”
Advocates were equally positive about Virginia’s passing of the ban on conversion therapy.
“As a survivor of this dangerous and fraudulent practice, I can’t fathom just how many young LGBTQ lives may be saved with these critical protections from conversion therapy,” said Sam Brinton of the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention group the Trevor Project 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 law prohibiting conversion therapy for minors will go into effect on July 1, but advocates have been working toward it for years now. Before Democrats gained control of both houses of the General Assembly earlier this year, bans against conversion therapy had repeatedly been proposed within both the Senate and House Of Delegates, but repeatedly failed to pass, and were often not even brought to a full floor vote in the House Of Delegates.
However, progress against this harmful practice did occur even before the General Assembly changed hands, as three different boards regulating mental health professionals in Virginia — the Board of Social Work, the Board of Psychology, and the Board of Counseling — all issued guidance prohibiting the practice in 2019. As well, multiple cities within the state, including Richmond and Virginia Beach, passed resolutions in 2019 asking the General Assembly for a ban on conversion therapy for minors.
Del. Hope’s bill was not the only conversion therapy bill introduced this year; in the state Senate, 36th district Senator Scott Surovell introduced a similar one, which also received significant support. The two bills were combined during reconciliation between the two houses of the General Assembly.
“Conversion therapy is a dangerous, destructive practice,” said Del. Hope in a statement. “We should be supporting and celebrating our LGTBQ youth, not putting them in harm’s way.”
Top Photo by Landon Shroder, RVA Mag file photo