Inslee signed the measure, SB 5722, at a ceremony in Olympia, Wash., making it illegal for licensed mental health therapists in engage in conversion therapy for individuals under the age of 18.
“Conversion therapy is not so much therapy, it’s abuse, and we are today prohibiting the abuse of our children, conversion therapy, which has caused scars for decades across the country of something that is inhumane and not acceptable in the State of Washington,” Inslee said.
Joining Inslee at the signing ceremony were several LGBT advocates, including Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, who commended Washington State for enacting the measure.
“For far too long, con artist peddling junk science have been allowed to get away with inflicting deep, lasting and irreparable harm to far too many LGBTQ people,” Griffin said. “Make no mistake about it: So-called conversion therapy is a child abuse.”
The practice of therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or transgender status is considered ineffectual at best and harmful at worst. Major medical and psychological institutions, including the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, widely reject conversion therapy.
Carolyn Reyes, “Born Perfect” campaign coordinator and youth counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel, praised Inslee for signing the bill.
“We are heartened by the progress made by legislators to uphold the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ individuals in Washington state,” Reyes said. “We know that few practices hurt LGBTQ youth more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through the debunked practice of ‘conversion therapy.’ Washington state sets an example for the rest of the country in ensuring every child knows they are born perfect.”
A total of 11 states and D.C. have banned “ex-gay” therapy for youth either by law or regulations. The 11 states are Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island and now Washington.
Washington State had lagged behind the others in banning the practice because, until Election 2016, Republicans held control of the Washington State Senate and repeatedly bottled up the legislation after the Democratic-controlled House passed it. After Democrats won control of the Senate, that barrier was lifted, and the legislative approved the bill and sent it to Inslee.
The next state to ban “ex-gay” therapy may be Maryland or New Hampshire. On the same day Inslee signed the ban in Washington State into law, the Maryland Senate approved a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors. The House has yet to act, but the bill has support from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
In New Hampshire, the House passed a ban on “ex-gay” therapy by a narrow vote, but it remain to be seen whether the measure will pass in the Senate or if Gov. Chris Sununu will sign it into law. The Republican-controlled state legislature has failed to pass it in previous sessions.
According to a recent report at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, an estimated 698,00 adults in the United States have undergone conversion therapy, including 350,000 adults who underwent the practice as teenagers. The report estimated 20,000 LGBT youth will undergo the practice before the age of 18 in the 41 states that at the time of the report banned the practice.