Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Monday signed into law House Bill 2307, which bans the use of so-called conversion therapy on minors.
The bill passed the Oregon Senate earlier this month by a vote of 21-3, after passing the House in March. Oregon now joins California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia in outlawing the scientifically discredited therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The practice, sometimes called “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy, has been denounced as ineffective and harmful by every major mental health organization in the nation, and by President Obama and other top federal officials.
The Oregon law, which includes protections against efforts to change a transgender person's identity, prohibits licensed therapists from attempting to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity, “including attempting to change behaviors or expressions of self or to reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”
Gov. Brown, a bisexual woman who happens to be the country’s first openly LGBT head of a state, apparently signed the legislation on Monday with little fanfare, according to the state’s legislative tracking website.
“We are very pleased that Oregon has banned the use of conversion therapy on minors and thank Gov. Brown and the Oregon Legislature for taking this important step,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, executive director of student advocacy group Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, in a statement Monday. “We hope Oregon will prove to be just the first of many states to ban this harmful and discredited practice that uses rejection, shame and psychological abuse aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Studies conducted by major mental health organizations and personal testimony from LGBT youth have shown that conversion therapy can create dangerous and even life-threatening effects, including depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse and suicidal behavior.”
Oregon’s move comes amid a growing national conversation around banning the scientifically discredited practice. Last month the White House expressed “concern” about so-called conversion therapy in the wake of a petition calling for a federal ban on such pseudo-science, following the public suicide note of 17-year-old Ohio trans girl Leelah Alcorn, in which she detailed the harm she suffered at the hands of a “Christian” reparative therapist she was sent to by her parents.
Just one day after Brown signed Oregon’s new law, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill that seeks to ban conversion therapy nationwide, for all ages, asking the Federal Trade Commission to brand the practice as “fraud,” noting that there is no clinical diagnosis for being LGBT, therefore any treatment claiming to cure such an “ailment” must be fraudulent.
Earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a right-wing group that had challenged New Jersey’s conversion therapy ban, therefore letting the law stand. It took the same action in a case involving California’s ban last year.