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Progress in Virginia: Protecting Youth from Conversion Therapy

BY: Kinzi Sparks
Group of LGBTQ young people standing together and looking into the camera

2020 legislative sessions have begun across the nation and Virginia is the first to take action on protecting LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy. A subcommittee of the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee voted this morning to move SB 245, which prohibits licensed health care providers from subjecting minors to conversion therapy, to a full committee vote as soon as this Thursday.

Casey Pick, The Trevor Project’s Senior Fellow for Advocacy and Government Affairs, was in Richmond this morning to testify before the subcommittee in favor of these vital protections. From her prepared remarks, “many of the young people that we serve are survivors or have a credible fear that their family members will compel them to go through conversion therapy. Supervisors for The Trevor Project’s crisis services report that these issues come up regularly, and as often as weekly. Data collected on TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat show that since 2010 hundreds of youth in crisis have reached out to The Trevor Project with specific concerns around this practice and terms like ‘conversion therapy,’ ‘reparative therapy,’ and ‘ex-gay’ have appeared on our text-based platforms with disturbing frequency.”

The legislation, introduced by Senator Scott Surovell, prohibits mental health practitioners licensed by a regulatory board of the Virginia Department of Health Professions from engaging in conversion therapy with any person under 18 years of age and provides that such counseling constitutes unprofessional conduct and is grounds for disciplinary action. Furthermore, the bill prohibits state funds from being used for the purpose of conducting conversion therapy, referring a person for conversion therapy, or awarding a grant or contract to any entity that does either.

The Trevor Project is proud to fight alongside fellow advocates who have been working for years to protect LGBTQ youth in Virginia through both the legislative and regulatory process, including champions from Equality Virginia, PFLAG, Born Perfect, and various medical and mental health organizations from across the Commonwealth.

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