Illinois today became the fourth state to outlaw the use of so-called conversion therapy on minors.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law that bars licensed therapists from subjecting young people to counseling that is designed to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, reports the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kelly Cassidy, in a press release. The state Senate and House of Representatives both approved the measure in May. The law goes into effect January 1.
Illinois joins California, New Jersey, and Oregon on the list of states with such laws; the District of Columbia also has one. “Our version of this legislation is the most comprehensive bill in the nation, barring health providers from engaging in this practice and affording survivors access to consumer fraud action against the perpetrators of this abuse,” Cassidy said. It is the first one to include consumer fraud language, she explained.
“Every major scientific organization has dismissed conversion therapy as harmful,” she continued. “The Illinois Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association for Social Workers, and so many more have not only disproven its utility, but they have decried its effects. Children who are highly rejected by their communities based on sexual orientation are six times more likely to suffer from depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity are not mental disorders. Who you are is not a disease, and that is the message we should be telling our children. I am grateful to all the sponsors, advocates, parents, and people across the state who supported this legislation and I am eager to continue the fight to protect our children.”
The bill had bipartisan support. Chief sponsor Cassidy is a Democrat, and Gov. Rauner is a Republican. The Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights #BornPerfect Campaign, the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Equality Illinois, and other groups helped bring together the coalition supporting it.
“With this tremendous step, LGBT youth in Illinois are now protected from a dangerous and appalling practice based on junk pseudoscience that amounts to nothing less than child abuse,” said HRC president Chad Griffin in a press release. “Discredited by every major mental health, medical, and child welfare organization, conversion ‘therapy’ uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are. We thank Governor Rauner as well as members of the state legislature on both sides of the aisle for putting politics aside and the well-being of children first. We will continue to work with our allies to secure these crucial protections in every state across the nation.”
“We are thrilled that Illinois has joined the rapidly growing number of states leading the way to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy,” added NCLR #BornPerfect Campaign coordinator and staff attorney Samantha Ames. “Illinois families can now have confidence that the mental health professional they turn to in times of uncertainty may not use their state license to profit from their children’s pain. Most importantly, Illinois kids can now rest easy in the knowledge that they cannot be forced or coerced to undergo dangerous and discredited treatments to fix who they are. Today brings us one step closer to the day when all LGBTQ youth know they were born perfect.”
Conversion therapy also has been condemned by President Obama and other top federal officials. And U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu and Nancy Pelosi have introduced legislation that would classify conversion therapy as fraud and ban its use on people of any age by for-profit practitioners nationwide.
Rauner, although staunchly conservative — he is battling with Democratic legislators over the state budget — has taken other pro-LGBT steps. Thursday he also signed legislation signed a bill on that lets transgender people specify their gender identity in funeral and burial instructions, Windy City Times reports. Last month, the paper notes, he signed legislation “that both expanded hate-crimes statutes to cover institutional vandalism and codified gender identity in hate crimes statutes by making reference to definitions in the Human Rights Act.”