D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on Monday signed a bill passed unanimously by the City Council that bans mental health professionals licensed by the city from performing so-called conversion therapy on minors.
The Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Act of 2014 imposes fines and other penalties for licensed therapists and other licensed mental health professionals seeking to change the sexual orientation of people under the age of 18 from gay to straight.
“I am proud to sign a bill that protects youth and their families from the discredited practice of conversion therapy,” Gray said at a bill signing ceremony outside his office, which was attended by LGBT rights advocates.
Under the city’s home rule charter, the bill must clear a 30 legislative day review by Congress before becoming law. Such reviews usually take 60 calendar days or longer to complete.
The New York-based group Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network issued a statement on Tuesday praising the Council and mayor for supporting the measure, which it said will protect LGBT youth from being subjected to harmful forms of therapy.
“These actions will protect young people from a practice that studies conducted by major mental health organizations and personal testimony from youth have shown can create dangerous and even life-threatening effects, including depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse and suicidal behavior,” said GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard.
D.C. becomes the third jurisdiction in the nation, after California and New Jersey, to ban the therapy for minors.
Opponents of the legislation argue that it discriminates against youth and their parents who want to change their sexual orientation and they dispute claims that the therapy is harmful. Locally, opponents have said they are considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the D.C. law in court and point out that similar laws have been defeated in other states.