Washington considers ban on conversion therapy for minors

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Washington has become the latest of several states to consider legislation specifically targeted to protect youth that are or perceived as LGBT.

Lawmakers attended a hearing on January 22 at which mental health care professionals and LGBT rights advocates spoke in favor of a ban on gay conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy, for minors.

The introduction to the bill, HB 2451, reads in part: 

For nearly forty years the major professional associations of 17 mental health practitioners and researchers in the United States have recognized that being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming […]

The Pan American health organization, a regional office of the world health organization, issued a statement in May 2012 indicating that conversion therapies constitute a breach of the ethical principles of health care and violate international and regional agreements on human rights. The statement further noted that such practices have no medical justification and represent a serious threat to the person’s health and well-being […]

Washington has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.

The legislation would amend Washington law to add “performing sexual orientation change efforts on a patient under age eighteen,” to the list of what constitutes unprofessional conduct for any licensed healthcare professional.

One speaker, Reverend Manny Santiago, testified that undergoing such treatment drove him to the brink of suicide on multiple occasions.

“Knowing that I could not change who I was, many times I thought of ending my life while I was being submitted to the pain of these methods of reparative therapy,” he said, according to NWNews. “These methods left me with deep wounds that are still healing.”

Those opposed to the bill claimed that a state ban on such treatments would limit the options for gay youth in distress. It should be noted that the bill does not ban helping LGBT youth who are having issues with self-acceptance.

Bans on such therapy for minors are already in place in California and New Jersey, and have been proposed in New York and Maryland.

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