Virginia could ban ex-gay therapy on kids if any of these several bills pass
Virginia was once known as a destination for conversation or “ex-gay” therapy. One of the largest practitioners of this now defunct act, Exodus International, was based in Virginia Beach and shut its doors in 2013. Even its former VP came out as gay early last year.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not still happening.
A billboard erected back in 2014 aimed to further propagate the practice, but it was later found out the model used in the billboard was an out-gay man, and Richmond’s LGBTQ community gathered together to make a billboard of their own supporting LGBTQ folks.
To ensure the practice gets snubbed out in the Commonwealth, legislators from the House and the Senate have worked together to create a series of bills making the practice on anyone under the age of 18 against state law.
Conversion therapy, according to the bills, is defined as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” This could include any treatment aiming to curb “behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”
The bill provides that no state funds shall be expended for the purpose of “conducting conversion therapy, referring a person for conversion therapy, extending health benefits coverage for conversion therapy, or awarding a grant or contract to any entity that conducts conversion therapy or refers individuals for conversion therapy.”
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.”
The American Medical Association has also come out against the practice.
Here in Virginia, SB 262, SB 267, and HB 427 all aim to prohibit “any health care provider or person who performs counseling as part of his training for any profession licensed by a regulatory board of the Department of Health Professions from engaging in conversion therapy with any person under 18 years of age.”
Senators Dance, Dance, McEachin, Ebbin, Favola, Locke, & Saslaw have all signed on for SB 267, with Sen. Scott A. Surovell being the sole patron of SB 262 (duplicate bills like this are often folded together into one once the session gets under way.)
Delegate Hope is currently the sole House supporter of HB 427.
“As hearts and minds on the issue continue to evolve, we gain more and more of an understanding,” Hope told the Washington Blade on Monday in an email. “With that comes acceptance that being homosexual is not a mental illness or a sin. There’s no on or off switch and I believe we are getting closer and closer to recognizing that conversion therapy is nothing more than a hoax on the consumer. One day we’ll look back on this the same way we view lobotomies or sterilizations.”
This is not the first time legislators like Hope have worked to combat conversion therapy. A watered down version of Hope’s bill failed to get out of committee last year despite a large push by activists, including bringing in nationally-recognize ex-gay therapy survivor Mathew Shurka (pictured above) in to testify.
Shurka, now 26, painted his five year journey with ex-gay therapy in a vivid and dark light. He claimed he was denied access to women in his life, forced through what he called “masturbation therapy,” and even given Viagra at age 17 to help achieve erections while looking at women.
“I don’t have erectile dysfunction,” said Shurka during the press conference. “I was not interested in women. I knew what my desire was. Being healthy and having a healthy body… using those pills is something that haunts me to this day.”
Shurka left the treatment at the age of 21, and while his mother and sister spoke in support of his departure from the treatment, he still doesn’t have a relationship with his father who originally forced him into treatment.
Shurka might return for another press conference around this bill scheduled for Monday, 1/18. GayRVA will provide details on that, as well as more info about these bills, next week.
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