Majority of States Are Blocking Bills That Seek to Ban Conversion Therapy for Gay Youth

Rainbow colored flags fly outside City Hall in San Francisco, California, June 28, 2013.
Rainbow colored flags fly outside City Hall in San Francisco, California, June 28, 2013. | (Photo: Reuters/Robert Galbraith)

While two states have successfully banned conversion therapy for gay youth, a majority of state lagislatures have voted down bills that would implement such bans after hearing the testimonies of ex-gays who say they've benefitted from sexual orientation change therapy.

Proposed bans similar to California's and New Jersey's laws prohibiting sexual orientation change therapy, or SOCE, for minors have been voted down or withdrawn in Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Washington, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

In states like Massachusetts and Vermont, measures to ban conversion therapy for LGBT youth have been referred to committees only to have months go by without further action.

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Christopher Doyle, head of the ex-gay group Voice of the Voiceless, wrote about the 13 states that have defeated or have stalled approval of gay conversion therapy bans.

Doyle attributed the bills' defeats to ex-gays showing up and testifying in favor of SOCE.

"Simply put, when ex-gays show up and tell the truth about SOCE therapy, how it helped them, and in some cases, saved their lives, legislators have listened," wrote Doyle.

"Stated another way, gays cannot speak for ex-gays. This is what we have been trying to get across in our work."

In late 2012, California became the first state in the nation to ban conversion therapy for gay minors when Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1172 into law.

The following year, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a similar measure known as Assembly bill 3371.

Both states were sued by the Liberty Counsel on behalf of conversion therapy practitioners. Thus far, the laws have survived constitutional muster.

Liberty Counsel appealed to the United States Supreme Court regarding the California law, but the Court declined to hear the appeal.

LGBT organizations hailed the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the appeal as a victory against SOCE.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement that the decision will help lead to other states adopting similar legislation.

"This life-saving law has cleared the final hurdle and will now protect California youth from harmful practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental health organizations," Minter claimed.

Several other legislators across the country have mulled measures to similarly regulate gay conversion therapy in their states.

None of them have seen the success that anti-therapy groups have had in California and New Jersey. However, the debates continue, with Washington D.C.'s city government having held a hearing on an SOCE therapy ban bill late last month.

"Close to 30 supporters and opponents of a bill that would ban licensed mental health providers from performing gay conversion therapy for minors gave strongly worded and sometimes emotional testimony," reported the Washington Blade.

"Eleven members of the 13-member council have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, including council member Yvette Alexander, D-Ward 7, who chairs the Committee on Health that has jurisdiction over the measure."

Also called reparative therapy, SOCE therapy has been rejected by the American Psychiatric Association, which is known as the largest psychiatry group in the world.

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