It will soon be illegal for mental health professionals in Washington state to try to change the sexual orientation of minors through so-called “conversion therapy.”
On Saturday (March 3), the Washington State Senate approved Senate Bill 5722, which allows licensed therapists to be prosecuted for “unlawful conduct” if they attempt conversion therapy on anyone under the age of 18. Therapists who break the law could be slapped with fines, suspension, and the loss of their medical license.
The legislation, which was passed on a 33 to 16 vote, will now be sent to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. According to the Huffington Post, he is expected to sign it into law.
Once the bill is signed, Washington will become the 10th state to ban gay conversion therapy in the U.S. Currently, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia all have laws forbidding the practice. Meanwhile, New Hampshire is debating a similar bill, and in November, New York passed a law banning therapists from accepting payment for conversion therapy.
According to Pink News, subjecting LGBT minors to conversion therapy is also illegal in Malta, Switzerland, Taiwan, two Canadian provinces, and the state of Victoria in Australia. However, the practice is still legal in the United Kingdom.
As the Human Rights Campaign reports, research has shown that conversion therapy does not change a person’s sexual orientation. However, it has been linked to depression, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and homelessness for those exposed to it. As a result, the practice has been condemned by all leading medical and mental health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association.
Despite this, a study by the Williams Institue on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law found that nearly 700,000 American LGBTQ adults have been subjected to conversion therapy at some point in their lives. Of those, 350,000 were under the age of 18 when the conversion was attempted. The study also found that approximately 20,000 LGBTQ children are put through conversion therapy in states that still allow that practice.