Virginia House Kills Bill To Ban Ex-Gay Therapy on Youth
Photo of Del. Hope at Today’s Hearing via Chris Suarez
The Virginia House subcommittee tabled a measure that would have banned conversion or “ex-gay” therapy programs for minors, on a 4 to 1 party line vote early Thursday Morning.
“Today, the mental health and therapeutic communities are against or strongly advise against the use of conversion therapy, especially with children,” said Apryl Prentiss, an English professor who said she experienced conversion therapy herself.
The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association are among the organizations condemning gay conversion therapy.
Bill Johnston, a Virginia resident who hoped to speak in favor of the bill on Thursday, said he went through reparative therapy when he was 18, at the behest of his parents after he came out to them.
Johnston said in his program counselors and therapists attempted to attribute the source of his sexual identification to repressed memories or childhood trauma. Johnston said he never experienced any such trauma, but said many younger people who go through these programs are at a greater risk.
“The people that are most vulnerable are the ones who did have trauma and have these issues,” Johnston said. “Then they’d have a counselor coming up to them and saying, ‘This issue in your past is why you’re gay and now you’re creating even more problems,’ instead of being able to work through problems in their past. Now you’re just confusing them and linking something that isn’t a problem to something that is. Sexual orientation isn’t a problem.”
Christopher Doyle, Founder of Voice of the Voiceless, an organization which supports ex-gay therapy and threatened legal action against Virginia state colleges over the summer for their lack of ex-gay therapy treatment options, spoke in opposition to the bill. He said therapy helped him overcome his sexual attraction to men and overcome trauma he suffered as a child.
“These individuals (homosexuals seeking therapy to convert) have no one advocating for them,” Doyle said. “They’ve simply been told that they were born gay and can’t change. However, we know from clinical experience and research that no one is simply born homosexual. For some individuals, sexual orientation is fluid and can change.”
Doyle said the bill is founded on beliefs alone, saying research on minors who’ve undergone conversion therapy has never been done. However, Prentiss pointed out other data in support of the bill.
“The trauma of rejection, which so many LGBT children experience and in which conversion therapy can play a prominent role, has a demonstrable and statistical footprint measured in broken and lost lives,” Prentiss said. “LGBT young people who’ve experienced rejection at the hands of parents are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide, six more times likely to report high levels of depression, and three times more likely to use illegal drugs.”
Hope says he plans to introduce a similar bill during the next session of the legislature.
“Hearts and minds on this issue are changing on a daily basis,” Hope said. “Virginia is poised to be one of the next states to outlaw this terrible procedure.”
Advocates gather with hope at today’s hearing (Via Chris Suarez)
Hope described the measure as already being “watered down,” citing the bill’s provision allowing religious institutions to retain the right to practice gay conversion therapy on minors.
While the measure will not be considered again this session, other state legislatures, such as those of New Jersey and California, have already passed bills banning similar practices. The Maryland state legislature is deciding on a similar measure in Annapolis.
GOP 2016 Presidential platform supports “religious freedom,” ex-gay therapy, traditional marriage and the bible taught in schools
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