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Hope Proposes Bill To Ban Conversion Therapy for Children

For the third consecutive year, Democratic lawmakers and gay rights activists are mounting efforts to end conversion therapy for children under 18, a practice that attempts to change individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The state bill, pre-filed by Del. Patrick Hope (D) this month, would bar healthcare providers or individuals involving with counseling in a profession licensed by the Dept. of Health Professions from trying to change the child’s sexual orientation.

Hope said he wants to protect children who are not mature enough to choose the potentially dangerous treatment for themselves. The practice is banned in Washington, D.C. and four states.

“Conversion therapy is based on the false assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder or a sin. Well, it is not. There is no on/off switch to sexual orientation,” he said in a statement.

Advocacy organizations like The Trevor Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia are backing the bill to end a practice they say is dangerous and discredited. The practice rests on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental illness and requires therapy. Major mental health organizations like the American Psychiatric Association have also denounced the practice.

Similar legislation introduced over the last two years failed. Last year, proponents of conversion therapy like the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality testified that conversion therapy does not interfere with a gay teenager’s freedom of choice to undergo therapy. The bill died in committee by a 7-8 vote last year.

Hope aims to court support across the aisle this year. “This is an issue Republicans and Democrats can agree,” he said in a statement.

If approved, the change would not affect counseling that attempts to help children undergoing gender transition, services that help children explore their development and interventions to prevent unsafe or unlawful sexual practices.

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