Virginia has become the first state in the south to ban conversion therapy for minors.
On Tuesday, Virginia's Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed new legislation banning the treatment, which involves the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation, often using spiritual interventions.
“This issue is personal for me, as a pediatric neurologist who has cared for thousands of children,” Northam said in a statement, according to the New York Post. “Conversion therapy is not only based in discriminatory junk-science, it is dangerous and causes lasting harm to our youth. No one should be made to feel wrong for who they are — especially not a child.”
The bill passed through Virginia’s Democrat-majority state legislature last month after being held up for a number of years when Republicans had control of either chamber. The legislation, HB 386, prohibits health care providers and state-licensed counselors from administering conversion therapy to anyone under 18. The ban is set to come into force on July 1.
The American Psychological Association has consistently warned against the detrimental effects of conversion therapy; a practice it describes as involving “counseling and psychotherapy aimed at eliminating or suppressing homosexuality.”
The therapy is intrinsically damaging, the APA says, because it presents the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth “is a mental illness or disorder.”
“They often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure,” the group notes.
As a result of the potential for damage to the mental health of those undergoing the treatment, the APA notes that “a number of medical, health and mental health professional organizations have issued public statements about the dangers of this approach.” These include The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers together.
According to the APA, these groups boast a combined total of 480,000 mental health professionals who are all of the view that homosexuality is “not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be ‘cured.’”
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Will Maule is a British journalist who has spent the past several years working as a digital news editor. Since earning a degree in international relations and politics, Will has developed a particular interest in covering ethical issues, human rights and global religious persecution. Will's work has been featured in various outlets including The Spectator, Faithwire, CBN News, Spiked, The Federalist and Christian Headlines. Follow him on Twitter at @WillAMaule.