A proposal to bar licensed professionals in Virginia from subjecting minors to "ex-gay" therapy has been effectively quashed by the state legislature.
The Senate Education and Health Committee Thursday voted 8-7 to table the bill, thus not sending it to the full Senate for consideration, the Washington Blade reports. Sen. Louise Lucas had introduced it just days ago.
In the House of Delegates, the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Subcommittee heard testimony Thursday on that chamber's version of the bill but took no vote, indicating that the legislation is unlikely to move ahead there either, said its lead sponsor, Del. Patrick Hope. "It's telling the subcommittee refused to take a vote today," he told the Blade. "It is customary practice to vote on these matters after they are heard." Hope had backed similar legislation last year.
LGBT advocates expressed dismay. "It is extremely disappointing that our lawmakers cannot come together in support of a bill that would protect Virginia's LGBT youth," said a statement issued by James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. "We cannot continue to allow our youth to be put through this so-called 'treatment' that can cause depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior. At best, allowing this harmful treatment on our youth is irresponsible, and at worse, it could contribute to the unthinkable."
Mathew Shurka, a gay man who testified in both committees about his negative experiences with such therapy — designed to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity — found several members unreceptive. In the House committee, "as I looked them in the eye, they looked away," Shurka told the Blade. "They rolled their eyes and gave me no acknowledgment." In an earlier televised press conference (watch below), he had said some of the "therapy" involved being prescribed Viagra in order to have sex with women and being told not to speak to his mother or sister, even though he lived with them.
Had the Virginia bills emerged from committee, they were unlikely to win approval by the full Senate or House, both of which have a Republican majority, reports Metro Weekly. And "ex-gay" or "reparative" therapy has the "full-throated backing" of influential right-wing groups, the publication notes. One of them, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, placed an ad on a billboard in Richmond last year, asserting that studies of twins prove "nobody is born gay." It turned out the model for the stock photos used to depict twins on the billboard is a gay man and not a twin.
Every major medical and mental health group in the U.S. condemns "ex-gay" therapy as ineffective and harmful. California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., have all prohibited licensed professionals from subjecting minors to such therapy, and a similar ban has been proposed in Illinois. The bans generally do not affect religious-based counselors, as they are not usually licensed by state or local governments.