Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello today issued an executive order banning the use of conversion therapy on minors.
The U.S. territory joins 15 states that have prohibited licensed therapists from subjecting people under 18 to the discredited and harmful practice, which purports to turn LGBTQ people straight or cisgender. The District of Columbia and several cities and counties have adopted similar laws.
The executive order takes effect immediately and requires the secretary of health, the administrator of the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration, and the secretary of economic development and trade to issue regulations within 90 days restricting licensed health care facilities and workers from engaging in the practice, according to a press release from the Human Rights Campaign.
Rossello issued the order after legislators this month blocked a bill to ban use of the practice on minors. "As a father, as a scientist and as the governor for everyone in Puerto Rico, I firmly believe that the idea that there are people in our society who need treatment because of their gender identity or whom they love is not only absurd, it is harmful to so many children and young adults who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect," he said in a press release last week, announding his intention to sign the order.
"We commend Governor Rossello for his leadership in issuing this order to protect LGBTQ minors in Puerto Rico," said HRC Senior Legislative Counsel Xavier Persad. "The dangerous and debunked practice of so-called 'conversion therapy' not only doesn't work -- it can have life-threatening consequences. This is why it has been condemned by every major medical association in our country. Puerto Rico now joins 15 other states and the District of Columbia in protecting LGBTQ minors from this despicable practice and sending a message that these youth should be affirmed and embraced."
The Trevor Project, which works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, also praised the governor's action. Rates of attempted suicide by LGBTQ youth whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation are more than double the rate of LGBT youth who reported no attempts to change their orientation, according to research cited by the group. Suicide attempts for LGBT young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and formal change efforts by therapists and/or religious leaders are three times higher.
"We are grateful for Gov. Ricardo A. Rossello for taking decisive action to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy," Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, in a press release. "LGBTQ youth in crisis reach out to us every day, including young people from Puerto Rico, and this action will undoubtedly save young LGBTQ lives."
New York in January became the 15th state to enact a law prohibiting use of the therapy on minors; it had banned it by executive order previously. Colorado legislators have approved a similar bill, which Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign into law shortly.