A Northern Virginia state delegate proposed a bill Monday that would ban the practice of reparative or conversion therapy by mental health professionals who try to persuade minors from being gay.
The measure, sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), doesn't affect parents' abilities to talk to their children or clergy from ministering to families. However, it would restrict licensed therapists from attempting to change a child through hypnosis and other forms of counseling in order to reconcile their sexuality with family or religious beliefs.
"Conversion therapy is based on the false assumption that homosexuality and sexuality is a sin or a mental disorder and it is not," said Hope, according to Richmond, Va.-based CBS 6. "What we're trying to do here is try and stop any practice of forcing minors to undergo this potentially very psychologically harmful therapy."
Hope opposes the practice because, he says, it is based on a misunderstanding of people's sexual orientation.
"It is very clear that organized psychiatry maintains that sexual orientation is not changeable, that conversion therapies do irreparable harm, and that conversion therapies should not be practiced in the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Hope.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, says the bill would infringe upon the rights of therapists and families.
"It's astonishing that the party that claims to defend choice and free speech is bent on limiting both for counselors, parents and kids struggling with their sexuality," said Cobb in a statement. "Their discrimination against people that leave the homosexual lifestyle is insulting to thousands who have made this change."
She also said that liberals in the state have introduced nearly two dozen bills about sex and abortion, and that "their obsession exposes their claims about conservatives focusing on so-called social issues as utter hypocrisy."
Considering that the House of delegates is dominated by Republicans, Hope admitted that passing the bill would not be an easy feat. However, he argued that it was the right time to begin a debate on the issue, even if it does not pass this year.
If approved, Virginia will join California and New Jersey, which have passed similar measures.
In addition to Hope's proposed bill, Virginia Democrats have pushed for several homosexual initiatives since the Virginia General Assembly convened earlier this month, including proposed legislation against discrimination and the recognition of same-sex marriages.