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In a First for the South, Virgina Bans LGBTQ “Conversion Therapy”

Virginia joins 20 other states and the District of Columbia in banning the practice of "conversion therapy." (Adobe Stock)
Virginia joins 20 other states and the District of Columbia in banning the practice of "conversion therapy." (Adobe Stock)
March 4, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer in Virginia now are protected from "conversion therapy," after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a law banning the practice.

The therapy involves mental-health practitioners trying to get a person to change sexual orientation or gender identity, and it's been widely discredited. Virginia resident Adam Trimmer, who's been through the controversial practice, said his therapist told him his sexual orientation was the result of an overbearing mother and a distant father. Trimmer, who now serves as Virginia ambassador for anti-conversion therapy group Born Perfect, said it almost ruined his relationships with his parents.

"Conversion therapy completely wrecked our family. It wrecked my identity, it wrecked our family, and you don't want this to happen in your family," he said. "The issue is not that your child is part of the LGBTQ community. They just need someone to talk to."

Virginia now is the 20th state -- and the first in the South -- to outlaw the controversial practice. The ban takes effect July 1.

The conversion-therapy bill is considered a historic breakthrough for LGBTQ Southerners, according to the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. She said more than one-third of all LGBTQ Americans live in the South.

"This continues to be the part of the country where discrimination is most enshrined in state law," she said, "or where we haven't been able to have the breakthroughs in pro-LGBTQ equality and laws that we've seen in other parts of the country."

Currently, 28 states don't have any laws that protect the more than 13 million LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. Other landmark rights bills also passed Virginia's House and Senate, and are on their way to the governor.

The text of the legislation, House Bill 386, is online at lis.virginia.gov, and a Williams Institute LGBTQ fact sheet is at williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA