Vermont Bans Use of 'Ex-Gay' Therapy on Minors

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin

Vermont today joined the states barring licensed therapists from subjecting minors to so-called conversion therapy, designed to turn LGBT people straight or cisgender.

“It's absurd to think that being gay or transgender is something to be cured of,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a press release announcing he had signed Senate Bill 132 into law. “Our country has come a long way in a short period of time in recognizing the civil rights of members of the LGBT community, and I am so proud that Vermont has taken a leadership role at every step of the way. At a time when the rights of LGBT individuals are under attack in other parts of the country, Vermont will continue to stand up to hatred and bigotry and show the rest of the country what tolerance, understanding, and common humanity look like.”

The Vermont Senate passed the bill in March and the House in April. The state joins California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, the District of Columbia, and the city of Cincinnati in banning the use of such therapy on minors.

The practice, sometimes called “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy, has been deemed ineffective and harmful by every major mental health organization. The news from Vermont comes the same day as the release of a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center titled “Quacks,” examining the history of the practice, which, instead of changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, often causes clients to suffer severe depression, engage in self-destructive behaviors, and even attempt suicide.

“Conversion therapy has a long, sordid history of hurting people and validating anti-LGBT bigotry,” said SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok, the report’s author, in a press release. “Modern-day conversion therapy is just the same old snake oil in a new bottle. They may not be using the extreme practices of the past, such as shock treatment or castration, but these ‘therapists’ have no legitimate scientific basis for their claims. They’re quacks.”

LGBT rights groups praised Vermont’s action. “We are thrilled that Vermont has joined the rapidly growing number of states leading the way to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights youth policy counsel Carolyn Reyes in a joint statement with the Human Rights Campaign. “Vermont 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, Vermont children can now rest easy in the knowledge that they cannot be forced or coerced to undergo dangerous and discredited treatments to try to change who they are. Today brings us one step closer to the day when all LGBTQ youth know they were born perfect.”

Added HRC president Chad Griffin: “No young person should be subjected to this extremely harmful and discredited practice, which medical professionals agree not only doesn't work, but can also have life-threatening consequences. It is nothing short of child abuse. We thank Governor Shumlin and the Vermont State Legislature for prioritizing the well-being and safety of our nation's youth, and remain committed to working with our partners to ensure that this quackery is banned from coast to coast.”

NCLR, HRC, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, Pride Center Vermont, and Outright Vermont helped organize a coalition in favor of SB 132, which was championed by Sens. Brian Campion and Claire Ayer and Rep. Ann Pugh.

Also, NCLR, HRC, and SPLC in February filed a federal consumer fraud complaint against a major provider of “conversion therapy,” urging the Federal Trade Commission to take enforcement action against the organization and all practitioners engaging in similar fraudulent advertising and business practices. Legislation that would classify such therapy as fraud is pending in Congress, and some Congress members have called on the FTC to use its regulatory authority to stop the practice. President Obama and several officials in his administration have denounced this type of therapy.

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