On Monday, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 66-27 to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors, with 11 Republicans voting to end the practice.
The bill codifies into law restrictions on conversion therapy that were already put in place by the state boards that license therapists, social workers, and psychologists.
Those restrictions classify attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a form of “unprofessional conduct” that can jeopardize a person’s ability to continue practicing.
It also prevents practitioners of conversion therapy, or those agencies or organizations who refer LGBTQ youth to conversion therapists, from receiving state funds or contracts.
The bill does not apply to parents or counselors who act in a non-professional capacity as religious advisers.
Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), the sponsor of the bill, celebrated its passage on Twitter, writing: “The Va House votes to ban conversion therapy to minors. For seven years, I could never get this bill out of Subcommittee and today we voted out a strong bipartisan bill!”
The Va House votes to ban conversion therapy to minors. For seven years, I could never get this bill out of Subcommittee and today we voted out a strong bipartisan bill! pic.twitter.com/7DNdwesPUD
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 3, 2020
A similar bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), passed the Senate on a largely party-line vote, with all Democrats and Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Upperville) voting in favor of banning the practice.
However, some Senate Republicans said that they felt the regulations governing therapists and practitioners who wish to be licensed were sufficient in preventing children from being coerced into conversion therapy.
The bills must now be passed by the opposite chamber before being sent to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature into law.
Once that happens, Virginia would become the 20th state to prohibit therapists from attempting to change a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sam Brinton, the head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project and a survivor of conversion therapy, applauded passage of the bill.
“Conversion therapy is widely discredited, opposed by nearly every major medical association, and has shown to produce negative mental health outcomes,” Brinton said in a statement. “The Trevor Project’s 2019 national survey found that LGBTQ youth who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who have not. We urge the Virginia Senate and Governor Northam to take swift action to enshrine these vital protections into law.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include reaction from The Trevor Project.
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