Bill to Ban Ex-Gay Therapy on Children To Go Before VA General Assembly
A bill hoping to ban the use of ex-gay therapy on youth in Virginia will go before the 2014 General Assembly. The bill’s early language states “under no circumstances” should a medical health provider try to change the sexual orientation of any person under the age of 18, and doing so would result in “discipline by the licensing entity” against the practitioner according to early copy of the bill obtained by GayRVA.
“Seeing what has happened in California and New Jersey; it’s really encouraged me to put this bill forward,” said Delegate Patrick Hope, the bill’s chief patron, from his Northern Virginia office. Hope said he was introduced more recently to the issue of ex-gay therapy – after speaking with some constituents who had been forced into the process, seeing what was happening in other states, and reading about the damage the treatment can cause, Hope threw his support behind the bill. “I think this is the right tome to have a conversation about it.”
The bill would ban the practice of conversation therapy on minors, and practicing psychologists could lose their license if they are caught using the treatment.
Nationally, the fight against ex-gay therapy has been met with push back from faith activists who say the bill limits freedom of religion and speech. Both California and New Jersey have banned the treatment but legal challenges followed shortly after the bills were signed into law. CA’s ban was upheld at the federal level, and Hope cited the 9th District Federal Court ruling which upheld the ban in August of last year.
“The courts have said (the ban) does not violate speech or religion; it’s conduct that we’re going after, not speech or religion. In terms of parental rights, parents do have a right to make decisions regarding the care and custody of their children, but that right is not without limitations,” said Hope. “We as a government need to step in to protect our children. The risks far out weigh the benefits.”
Hope said the bill has been submitted to the House’s digital system, but due to backlogs in updates and needing approval for final language, it might not be visible in the system until next week.
The Alliance for Progressive Values took the lead on helping get this bill before the GA. Victoria Bragunier, Policy Director for APV, said the practice of conversion therapy harkens back to the days of shock treatment and the use of dangerous drugs. Add to that the main stream mental health communities’ acceptance of homosexuality and you’re left with a pseudo science option for an issue that requires no treatment. “With that kind of quackery, it lays open a minefield of abuse for people who don’t have a mental disorder. When you throw into that treatment for children, the vulnerability is dangerous.”
In May of 2012, the World Health Organization released a statement on the 20th anniversary of the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders and took the chance to condemn the practice of conversation therapy.
“Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure. There is no medical indication for changing sexual orientation,” said Pan American Health Organization (With the WHO) Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago. “Practices known as “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy” represent “a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people.”
But the medical communities’ stance has not slowed the tide of ex-gay advocates. People Like Chris Doyle of Voice of the Voiceless continue to fight for the right to use an unsanctioned practice on individuals.
In September of this year, Doyle and VoV went undercover to several Virginia colleges seeking ex-gay therapy, when they were denied such treatment, they threatened legal action.
“What we found out was the LGBT resource centers and the multicultural centers, which are supposed to be places where students can go and get biased free and neutral counseling from counselors, were anything but that,” said Doyle in an interview with GayRVA. “They did not work with us on our goals, they did not provide us any resources.”
APV’s President Scott Price compared the fight to keep conversion therapy a viable option is the same as the push against climate change and the belief that a women can’t get pregnant from rape.
“For us, as a progressive organization, this is part and parcel of a larger issue we have in this county right now., the use of science and medicine as a political and ideological platform,” said Price. “It falls into the same pursuit of pseudo science, and when the science doesn’t work for them, they simply create the science.”
Equality Virginia’s Executive Director James Parish has put his LGBT-rights group’s weight behind the bill. Parish said when groups like the American Psychiatric Association and other major health organizations oppose the use of gay conversion therapy, it makes clear evidence that this so-called “treatment” is not only ineffective, but is also harmful to LGBT individuals.
‘It is time for Virginia to accept that one’s sexual orientation is not a disease or a disorder and banning gay conversation therapy is a step in the right direction,” said Parish in a statement.
A bill like this faces many hurdles – Virginia has a pretty awful track record when it comes to passing LGBTQ friendly legislation. But Price said, despite the up hill battle, the cause was worth the fight.
“It’s worth doing, and there is a chance of this bill doing better with support of the community,” said Price. “If people come out for this bill, you never know what could happen.”
One person who has come forward with their ex-gay therapy story is GayRVA contributor Apryl Prentiss. Prentiss has written about her experience with VA Beach’s Exodus International, and said she was excited to get the chance to talk about the dangers these ex-gay programs create.
“Teenagers who are growing up and realizing that they may not be heterosexual are already completely bombarded with messages that tell them that being heterosexual is normal and right. As they are figuring out their sexual identity, they are constantly being told (especially if raised in a religious environment) that who they are at their core is inherently wrong. Now, add to those messages being sent by the church, parents, and culture in general to the word of a “mental health professional” (and I say that because many who practice this kind of therapy are highly unorthodox) who not only affirms that message but presses them to rewire their sexuality.”
Prentiss spent several years of her young adult life with Exodus, but in the end, she knew her sexuality couldn’t change, no matter what faith leaders tried to tell her. “I thought my best chance at a godly life was to be celibate for the rest of my life and the thought of missing out on human connection, human loving relationships at that level, destroyed my desire to really live life at all. There was immense pressure, immense darkness, and really no relief.”
In June of last year, Exodus shut it’s doors and admitted the ex-gay treatment it was providing was bogus. “We’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Exodus president Alan Chambers. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”
APV and Delegate Hope are looking for more voices to help defend the bill. If you are a VA resident who was forced into reparative therapy as a minor, you can reach Del. Hope’s Office at (703) 486-1010 or via email email@example.com or reach out to APV’s Victoria Bragunier at 804-517-5206, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“He has openly advocated for conversion therapy. I want that to sink into people.”November 22, 2016
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