Delaware Now 15th State to Ban Conversion Therapy on Minors

Delaware Governor John Carney

Delaware Gov. John Carney today signed into law a bill prohibiting licensed mental health professionals in the state from subjecting minors to so-called conversion therapy, aimed at turning LGBT people straight and cisgender.

The signature by Carney, a Democrat, makes Delaware the 15th state, plus the District of Columbia, to ban use of the discredited practice on young people. The law classifies performing conversion therapy as unprofessional conduct and grounds for discipline, reports Delaware Public Media.

“We are not aware of anyone currently practicing conversion therapy in Delaware,” Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware, told the media outlet. “We are aware of a number of young people through the years who have been referred out by Delaware licensed mental health professionals to people doing conversion therapy out of state, and that is one thing that this bill will also prohibit.”

Rep. Debra Heffernan, one of the bill’s sponsors, told Delaware Public Media the practice “is pseudoscience and child endangerment, plain and simple.” Indeed, it has been repudiated as ineffective and harmful by every major medical and mental health group.

LGBT rights groups lauded the legislation. “So-called conversion therapy is dangerous, cruel and uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization,” said Human Rights Campaign national press secretary Sarah McBride, a Delawarean, in a press release. “Today’s signing is a critical step forward in the fight to ensure that Delaware is a safe and affirming state for all LGBTQ youth, and we hope that the values and progress reflected in this law guide the ongoing conversation in Delaware about protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination. We are grateful to the many advocates, allies, parents, and survivors who spoke out against this abusive practice, Senator Harris McDowell and Representative Debra Heffernan for their leadership in the legislature, and Governor Carney for signing this important bill into law.”

“This bill sends an important message that a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is neither capable of being changed nor does it need to be changed, and efforts to try to do so in the name of therapy have no place in our state,” added Mark Purpura, an Equality Delaware board member, in the same release. “Instead, we should strive to understand and support each child’s unique personal identity to better empower them to thrive in school, at home, and in our community.  Equality Delaware is thankful for the leadership of Senator Harris McDowell and Representative Debra Heffernan and their legislative aides, the other cosponsors of this bill, and Governor Carney for signing it into law today.”       

“Today, Delaware took a stand to protect LGBTQ youth from harmful ineffective conversion therapy,” said a statement issued by conversion therapy survivor and National Center for Lesbian Rights Born Perfect strategist Mathew Shurka. “Delaware is now a safer place for LGBTQ youth, and we are one step closer to protecting LGBTQ youth nationwide.”

NCLR, Equality Delaware, and HRC all advocated for the bill’s passage. It was also supported by the Trevor Project.

Bans on the use of conversion therapy on minors have been signed into law in the past few months by Republican governors in Maryland and New Hampshire and a Democratic governor in Hawaii. However, Republican Gov. Paul LePage recently vetoed a similar bill in Maine.

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