As the movement to ban the use of so-called ex-gay or reparative therapy on minors spreads around the U.S., two national LGBT groups have drafted and released sample legislation to guide state lawmakers and activist groups in the process.
The sample bill, the first of its kind, draws on laws that have passed in five jurisdictions and been introduced in more than 20, a proposed federal law, and advice from legal experts, according to a press release from its creators, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign. It was unveiled today.
“The fight to end conversion therapy has been going on for decades, but the landscape has changed dramatically even in the last few years,” Samantha Ames, an NCLR staff attorney and coordinator of the group’s #BornPerfect campaign, which seeks to end conversion therapy, told The Advocate. “This document represents the gold standard for laws protecting LGBTQ youth from these dangerous and discredited practices. If a state wants to keep their kids safe from the conversion therapy industry, this is the place to start.”
“Many local advocates and lawmakers have reached out to us, looking for ways to protect youth from conversion therapy but unsure where to begin,” added HRC senior legislative counsel Alison Gill. “We hope that this sample legislation will enable advocates and lawmakers to take advantage of the successes, best practices, and lessons learned from passing these bills in other states. It is shocking to many that these harmful practices still happen in this day and age, and this sample legislation will help us put an end to them in every state.”
The groups released the sample bill just days after the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issued a report calling for an end to conversion therapy — which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — and urging family acceptance of LGBT children. Every major health organization in the U.S. has denounced such “therapy” as ineffective and harmful, and so have top officials in the Obama administration as well as the president himself.
The sample legislation, viewable here, quotes these groups’ findings, defines conversion therapy, includes a prohibition on the use of such therapy by state-licensed practitioners, and sets up provisions for enforcement.
In the jurisdictions that have passed similar legislation, the ban applies only to state-licensed therapists; unlicensed ones, such as those associated with faith-based groups, retain their religious freedom to engage in such work. Also, adults remain free to seek out such therapy. Laws like this have been enacted to date in California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. Lawmakers in New Hampshire and other states plan to introduce similar bills.