Where O Where is Delaware?
The State of Maryland is the most recent to join the list of states that have enacted legislation protecting LGBTQ youth from being forced into conversion therapy treatment. Other states having previously passed this legislation include California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Added to the list of states that have these protections in place are cities and counties in Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The Maryland bill, recently signed by Governor Larry Hogan, was titled, “The Youth Mental Health Protection Act.” Its introductory paragraph sets the stage for Senate Bill 1028 and gets to the heart of the rationale for this action: “For the purpose of prohibiting certain mental health or child care practitioners from engaging in conversion therapy with individuals who are minors; providing that a certain mental health or child care practitioner who engages with an individual who is a minor shall be considered to have engaged in unprofessional conduct and shall be subject to discipline by a certain licensing or certifying board; prohibiting the use of State funds for certain purposes.…”
So why the fuss over trying to convince children and youth that their sexual orientation should be hetero? Until recent years, it was understood that the gay lifestyle was a choice, that it could be reversed and that former gays could live happily in the straight world.
Well, perhaps not. Beliefs and practices have changed dramatically due to strides made through the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association. Each of these groups has disavowed themselves from advocating, or in any way endorsing, the use of conversion therapy in convincing children and youth to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a publication titled Just As They Are, produced by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), there is covert language being utilized to disguise the intentions of conversion therapists. Included are references to sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), sexual attraction fluidity exploration in therapy (SAFE-T), eliminating, reducing or decreasing frequency or intensity of unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA), reparative therapy, sexual reorientation efforts, ex-gay ministry, healthy sexuality promotion, sexuality counseling and sexual brokenness healing. All these euphemisms lead to confusion and outright deception.
The Delaware State Senate passed conversion therapy bill SB65 in May 2017. It has been pending since then in the State House, waiting for the required twenty-one votes that will then send it to the floor for debate. Of note is Senator Ernesto (Ernie) Lopez’s affirmative vote on this bill, which passed 12-3, with 4 abstentions and 2 absent. Kudos to Ernie for his vote in favor of SB65.
The synopsis of SB65 is succinct and direct. It reads as follows: “Conversion therapy is a practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including any effort to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender. Conversion therapy has been rejected by all mainstream medical and mental health organizations, and there is no credible evidence that it is effective. Moreover, this practice poses enormous health risks to LGBTQ youth, including an increased sense of shame, guilt, hopelessness, stress, and anger, thus increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, and self-harm. The harm done by conversion therapy can last well into adulthood.
Therefore, this Act makes it unprofessional conduct or a ground for discipline for individuals granted a certificate to practice medicine...or licensed...to engage in conversion therapy with a child or to refer a child to a practitioner in another jurisdiction to receive conversion therapy. This Act also prevents the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families from engaging in conversion therapy with a child or recommending that a child receive conversion therapy.”
SB65 provides protections our LGBTQ children and youth need. The proscriptions in this bill direct the proper action moving forward, with the consequences of contrary practice ready for implementation. Mental health practitioners of all stripes will risk their licensing should they engage in conversion therapy or advocate for it.
As noted by HRC President Chad Griffin, “No child should ever be subjected to the abusive practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ This dangerous and inhumane form of child abuse has no basis in science and is uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization.”
The life, health and well-being of our Delaware LGBTQ children and youth are at risk. Contact your local State House Representative to be sure this person is a co-sponsor of the bill. Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf is one of eleven House co-sponsors. Ten more are needed to trigger a vote. June will be a month for intense debate and rapid action on numerous bills. SB65 must be among those enacted this month. Our children’s futures hang in the balance. ▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter. Email David Garrett