Here We Go, Delaware!
In the June 1 issue of Letters, this column asked, “Where, O Where, is Delaware?” We now have the answer! Governor John Carney recently signed SB 65, a bill approved by both the State House and State Senate that prohibits children and youth from being subjected to conversion therapy. With his signature, Governor Carney made Delaware the fifteenth state to enact this protection.
In short, SB 65 prohibits health care professionals from prescribing or assigning conversion therapy as a course of action for the health and well-being of LGBTQ children and youth. Key persons responsible for putting the bill forward, and those from outside agencies who have advocated strongly for its passage over the last year, spoke at the bill signing.
The primary sponsor of SB 65, Senator Harris McDowell, expressed his hope that this will inspire other states to take similar action. He stated, “It doesn’t take a particularly strong moral compass to see that conversion therapy deserves to be unequivocally and universally condemned. Conversion therapy is child abuse quite simply. It always has been, always will be.”
House Representative Debra Heffernan said, “Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of a natural spectrum of human identity, and it’s not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. It is simply who that person is. The idea that you can convert someone through therapy sessions has long been discredited and rejected by all mainstream medical and mental health organizations.”
Mark Purpura, President of Equality Delaware and a CAMP Rehoboth Board Member, declared, “This bill sends an important message that a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is neither capable of being changed nor does it need to be changed, and efforts to try to do so in the name of therapy have no place in our state. Instead, we should strive to understand and support each child’s unique personal identity to better empower them to thrive in school, at home, and in our community.”
Lastly, it was a privilege to have Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Press Secretary Sarah McBride in attendance and to add to the celebration with her insight. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is dangerous, cruel, and uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization. Today’s signing is a critical step forward in the fight to ensure that Delaware is a safe and affirming state for all LGBTQ youth, and we hope that the values and progress reflected in this law guide the ongoing conversation in Delaware about protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination. We are grateful to the many advocates, allies, parents, and survivors who spoke out against this abusive practice.”
While there may be a shortage of anecdotal stories to substantiate the misuse of conversion therapy in Delaware, what is even more important is that future abuse of this pseudo-scientific process will be halted before it does real harm. Laws that are enacted do not always cure an ill, but may provide the right medicine to prevent oncoming illnesses. This legislation, now in force in Delaware, will prevent those who seek to do harm to LGBTQ children and youth from recommending or otherwise engaging in conversion therapy.
As the HRC notes on its website, “There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people, including depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior.”
Even with the signing of SB 65, danger still lurks in the corners of our state legislature. There are those who continually seek to undermine the courageous efforts of LGBTQ advocates who make the world better for others. As the State House deliberated SB 65, Rep. Heffernan rejected an amendment that would have diluted the intent and scope of the bill. Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro) proposed an amendment to permit conversion therapy when requested by the child or the child’s parents. Collins suggested that the bill usurps parental rights, and that this amendment would preserve them. The amendment failed.
By no means does the passage of SB 65 provide a guarantee that our LGBTQ children and youth are free from further assault on their rights and their lives. Bathroom bills, religious “freedom” proposals, and the recently discussed Regulation 225 revisions (which would have forced students to come out in order to be protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in school), are all subjects for the future. There is no shortage of the need for more advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community. We will not be silent. We will be heard. For now, though...here we go, Delaware! ▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter. Email David Garrett