DOVER, Del. — Gov. John Carney signed SB 65 into law on Monday, making Delaware the 15th state to ban the practice of conversion therapy in addition to Washington, D.C. Delaware House of Representative member Debra Heffernan, Delaware state Sen. Harris McDowell and Lisa Goodman of Equality Delaware gave speeches at the signing.
Delaware joins New York, Hawaii and Rhode Island among others in banning conversion therapy statewide.
“It doesn’t take a particularly strong moral compass to see that conversion therapy deserves to be unequivocally and universally condemned,” said Sen. McDowell in his speech. “Conversion therapy is child abuse quite simply. It always has been, always will be.”
McDowell also said that SB 65 will save lives and prevent further abuse within the state of Delaware. McDowell hopes that it will aid in getting rid of the practice of conversion therapy across the nation.
“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,” said Rep. Heffernan in her speech. “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.”
Heffernan described conversion therapy as pseudo-science and child endangerment. She mentioned that the practice can pose major health risks to LGBT youth, as well as a sense of shame, guilt, stress, anger and hopelessness. She also pointed out the harms of conversion therapy can last well into adulthood.
“Until today, one of the risks that such young people faced was being forced to endure so-called conversion therapy,” said Goodman in her speech. “According to a 2015 CDC survey, LGB teens are already at triple the risk of non-LGB teens for considering suicide, and at more than triple the risk for attempting it. Other studies have shown that trans youth are similarly at risk, maybe even higher at risk.”
Goodman echoed Heffernan’s statement on the health risks associated with conversion therapy, saying that the American Psychological Association states that the practice can cause depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. Goodman acknowledged Joe Cozza, whom she described as the one who “really got the ball rolling” on SB 65.
Cozza thanked Sen. McDowell and Rep. Heffernan, saying that he wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support for this bill along with the advocacy groups and their work. In his speech, Cozza said the LGBT community carries “invisible scars” from being closeted and those scars are bigger and run deeper for those who have been through conversion therapy.
Sarah McBride, National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign and native Delawarean also attended the signing of SB 65. She said the bill would ensure that youth for generations in Delaware will be protected from conversion therapy. McBride described SB 65 as a critical step toward ensuring that Delaware is a state for all young people as well as communicating clearly that Delaware welcomes love and affirms the dignity of all young people.
In a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, it was determined that roughly 20,000 LGBTQ minors will still be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional in states without protections if state officials do not act.