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Virginia is first southern US state to ban conversion therapy on minors

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (Photo: US Government)

Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, signed a bill yesterday banning the practice of so-called “conversion therapy” on minors.

Conversion therapy is the discredited practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through psychotherapeutic means. It doesn’t work and usually does far more harm than good.

Virginia becomes the 20th state in the US – and the first in the south – to ban the practice on minors. Adults can still choose to pursue it if they wish. The legislation was introduced by state Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington). It was passed in both the Virginia House and Senate, both of which are controlled by Democrats.

The ban will take effect from July 1, 2020.

Related: Utah’s Republican governor acts to ban conversion therapy on minors 

Governor Northam, besides his political role, works as a pediatric neurologist “who has cared for thousands of children.” In a statement, he said he was “proud” to sign the legislation.

“Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” said Governor Northam.

“This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effects on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide. No one should be made to feel they are not okay the way they are—especially not a child. I’m proud to sign this ban into law.”

Related: Bowen Yang opens up about undergoing conversion therapy as a teen

Delegate Hope added, “Conversion therapy is a dangerous, destructive practice. We should be supporting and celebrating our LGTBQ youth, not putting them in harm’s way.”

“[This bill is] a clear signal of the rapidly growing public support for LGBTQ equality in the South and sends a salient message: LGBTQ youth must be treated with respect, love, and support,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, in a statement.