Delaware has officially become the 14th state to ban conversion therapy after Gov. John Carney signed a bill banning the anti-LGBTQ practice into law.
As was widely expected, the Democrat approved State Bill 65 on Monday, which prohibits any attempt to subject LGBTQ youth to medical treatments intended to “cure” their sexual orientation or gender identity. The widely discredited practice has been condemned by every leading U.S. medical association as ineffective and harmful.
If psychologists or other medical providers are caught offering conversion therapy, they could face loss of licensure.
“All Delawareans, including Delaware children, deserve to be respected for who they are, and I was proud to sign this legislation into law today,” Gov. Carney claimed in a statement. “Discredited practices like conversion therapy have no place in Delaware, and I’m thankful for the legislators and advocates who moved this bill forward.”
SB 65 passed the Delaware General Assembly in June following a decisive 24 to 14 vote by the state’s House of Representatives. While opponents of the legislation claimed the bill was unnecessary, bill sponsor Rep. Debra Hefernan told colleagues during debate on the House floor that conversion therapy leads to “tragic consequences,” including “depression and even contemplating suicide.”
Although opponent Rep. Ruth Briggs King claimed the practice is already viewed as “unacceptable,” conversion therapy remains distressingly common. The Williams Institute estimated that more than 600,000 U.S. adults are survivors of the treatment — which has been likened to torture.
Conversion therapy survivor Sam Brinton applauded the state for continuing the historic momentum on the issue in 2018.
“I was excited to stand with the governor today as he signed our legislation into law making Delaware … the fifth state to do so this year alone,” said Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the youth suicide prevention group The Trevor Project, in comments shared with INTO.
Brinton added that LGBTQ youth deserve “to live a happy and healthy life free from the risk of conversion therapy.”
“Delaware is now a safer place for LGBTQ youth, and we are one step closer to protecting LGBTQ youth nationwide,” agreed Mathew Shurka, a fellow conversion therapy survivor and strategist for the Born Perfect campaign at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Delaware follows states like Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Washington, which have taken action to ban the practice in recent months.
Eight other states have also passed statewide laws prohibiting counselors from offering conversion therapy — which can include everything from shock treatment and aversion techniques to talk therapy. These states include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C.
Additionally, 40 state and local municipalities — including cities in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania — have passed their own laws curtailing conversion treatments.
But for Sarah McBride, the passage of Delaware’s conversion therapy ban is particularly poignant. Before joining the Human Rights Campaign as the LGBTQ advocacy group’s national press secretary, she lobbied for a marriage equality bill and a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law through the state legislature. Both efforts were successful.
Carney’s signature, thus, represents continued progress for LGBTQ Delawareans.
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is dangerous, cruel and uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization,” McBride said in a statement. “Today’s signing is a critical step forward in the fight to ensure that Delaware is a safe and affirming state for all LGBTQ youth, and we hope that the values and progress reflected in this law guide the ongoing conversation in Delaware about protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination.”
But as McBride hints, Delaware still has a ways to go before LGBTQ people are truly equal — especially queer and trans youth.
The First State is currently considering regulations that would force teachers and faculty to out transgender students to their parents if they wish to be recognized by their preferred name and pronouns in school.