Bans to ex-gay therapy on minors killed or delayed at Virginia General Assembly
A bill banning sexual conversion therapy for minors failed in the Virginia Senate today, but the same legislation was delayed in the House of Delegates.
House Bill 1385 introduced by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) and Senate Bill 988, introduced by Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) both seek to prohibit “any health care provider from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with any person under 18 years of age.”
The House heard testimony from individuals on both sides, but delayed any action on the bill for the day.
In the Senate, supporters and opponents of these bills testified about their own experiences with conversion therapy.
Mathew Shurka, (image below) who considers himself a survivor of conversion therapy, flew down from New York the morning of the Senate and House of Delegates committees to tell his story.
He went through five years of treatment with four different therapists, including one in Charlottesville, and his extreme depression throughout this process drove him to contemplate suicide.
“I stand here in front of you as a person who has not committed suicide. I’m very lucky to share my testimony with you, as I am alive,” Shurka said. “Also I am here on behalf of all the minors that cannot speak at this stand or because they are underage and believe they have to be under their parent’s advisory. And on behalf of all the children who have committed suicide and have no voice at all today.”
John Linder (image below) sought treatment for his unwanted sexual feelings in his early 20’s and said his experience was very different from Shurka’s.
“Nobody told me that I could just change my attraction like flipping a light switch,” Linder said. “But what therapy allowed me to do was explore the fundamental issues of identity and gender and sexuality that anybody would want to have the opportunity to explore with a therapist.”
Linder said his attraction towards men diminished and he had reparative therapy to thank for the life he has with his wife.
The Senate in an 8-7 vote passed by the bill indefinitely.
Sen. Thomas Garrett (R-Lynchburg) said that while he was not there to advocate for conversion therapy, calling Shurka’s experience “harmful,” he was concerned that passing this bill would violate freedom of speech.
“Is that not just the nature of free speech, freedom of association, freedom of opinions? That there are bad opinions but that we don’t outlaw them?” Garrett asked the committee.
Sen. Stephen Newman (R- Forest ) , (Top Image) one of the authors of Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, 2006′s Marshall Newman Amendment was concerned about the violation of parental rights with the implementation of the legislation.
“This is a dramatic departure for parents’ rights in a way that we have never seen before,” Newman said. “This would be rewriting everything.”
YES to Pass by Indefinitely
Newman, Smith, McWaters, Black, Carrico, Garrett, Cosgrove, Martin
NO to Pass by Indefinitely
Saslaw, Lucas, Howell, Locke, Barker, Petersen, Lewis
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