Gov. Northam signs bill banning conversion therapy in Virginia

Photo: MGN Online/torbakhopper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Photo: MGN Online/torbakhopper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0(WKYT)
Published: Mar. 3, 2020 at 3:17 PM EST
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Virginia's governor signed a bill on Tuesday effectively banning the discredited practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ children in the commonwealth.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed

, which will officially take effect on July 1, 2020.

Conversion therapy is a practice used to try to change sexual orientation or gender identity. The Virginia Senate voted 22-18 and the House of Delegates voted 66-27 to ban licensed therapists and counselors from subjecting minors to the practice.

The American Psychological Association has said conversion therapy is not based in science and is harmful to mental health. Many people who have been through it say it deepened feelings of depression and increased thoughts of suicide.

"There is some evidence that it likely increased depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking in individuals who did go through that," said Ryan Thompson, an assistant professor of psychology at Eastern Mennonite University.

Thompson said he didn't know of any therapists that still practice conversion therapy, but if they did, he says it would be inappropriate.

"The goal is to no longer be gay or to no longer be trans or something like that. That's not usually the way therapy works. Usually it's a collaborative understanding of moving toward health," Thompson said. "The definition of health is not straight or cisgender."

Conversion therapy is already banned by most licensing and professional organizations, like the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association.

"Children already have a diminished capacity to be able to consent to types of therapy they're going through, so for something without documented effectiveness, [negative impacts] and it was never really designed to treat an actual mental disorder is suspect at best," Thompson said. "[Children] can't consent with full knowledge of pros and cons of what they're dealing with."

Several Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in passing the measure.