Virginia became the first state in the South to ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ children.
Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, signed the ban into law Monday, making Virginia the 20th state, plus the District of Columbia, to ban the practice.
“Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said in a statement Tuesday.
Conversion therapy is a practice or treatment that aims to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The American Psychiatric Association has denounced the practice for years, saying it puts minors at risk.
“The American Psychiatric Association does not believe that same-sex orientation should or needs to be changed. … No credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation,” the group said in a position statement in 2013.
Del. Patrick Hope, who introduced the legislation in the state House, called conversion therapy “a dangerous, destructive practice.”
“We should be supporting and celebrating our LGTBQ youth, not putting them in harm’s way,” Hope said in a statement.
The Virginia law, effective July 1, prohibits licensed health care providers and counselors from providing conversion therapy to minors and state money from being used in the practice.
In August, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, banned state funding for the practice; however, the measure did not ban the practice altogether, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit group that tracks conversion therapy bans across the country.
In Virginia, Democrats passed a slew of measures to increase protections for LGTBQ Virginians and combat gender discrimination. Legislators voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, expand discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and undo abortion restrictions.
Sam Brinton, the head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, an advocacy group for LGBTQ young people, applauded the conversion therapy legislation being signed into law.
“As a survivor of this dangerous and fraudulent practice, I can’t fathom just how many young LGBTQ lives may be saved with these critical protections from conversion therapy,” Brinton said in a statement.
Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Virginia bans conversion therapy for LGBTQ kids, a first in South