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Virginia bans sexual orientation conversion therapy for youth with unwanted same-sex attraction

Virginia bans sexual orientation conversion therapy for youth with unwanted same-sex attraction

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. | Photo: Facebook

Virginia has become the latest state in the U.S. to ban sexual orientation conversion therapy for minors.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed House Bill 386 into law on Tuesday, which bars healthcare providers and counselors from counseling youth to treat unwanted same-sex attraction.

“Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” said Northam in a statement. “This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effects on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide.”

Introduced by Democratic Delegate Patrick Hope in February, HB 386 passed the House of Delegates in a vote of 66 to 27 and then the Senate in a vote of 22 to 18.

The Family Foundation of Virginia denounced HB 386 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 245, as one of the “worst bills” being considered by the General Assembly.

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“HB 386 and SB 245 prohibit counselors to counsel a minor in a way that would encourage them toward their biological sex,” stated the foundation.

“Referrals for ‘conversion therapy’ are also prohibited under state law and could affect state grants toward entities who refer. There is no religious exemption.”

Also called sexual orientation change efforts therapy or "reparative therapy," the process involves counseling efforts to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

The practice is controversial among some, with prominent American psychological organizations rejecting it as harmful and several left-leaning states, beginning with California, banning it for minors.

In past sessions, the Virginia Legislature has entertained bans on conversion therapy for minors only to ultimately fail to pass them.

For example, in 2014, Hope’s House Bill 1135 was defeated in a House of Delegates subcommittee of the Committee on Health Welfare and Institutions.

However, in 2019, the Democrats took control of the General Assembly and have since advanced several progressive agenda items on several issues, such as abortion and gun control.

While 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed bans on conversion therapy for youth, which have so far survived legal challenges, some localities that had similar measures have repealed them in light of litigation.

For example, the New York City decided last September to repeal its ban on the practice following litigation brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of a licensed psychotherapist.

At issue, according to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, was a concern that an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court would likely strike down the law.

“I don’t want to be someone who is giving in to these right-wing groups,” said Johnson, as reported by The New York Times. “But the Supreme Court has become conservative; the Second Circuit, which oversees New York, has become more conservative.”

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