Washington Becomes 10th State to Outlaw Conversion Therapy—And Maryland Could Be Next

· Updated on May 28, 2018

As was widely expected, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill on Wednesday banning conversion therapy in the state of Washington.

Senate Bill 5722 classifies any attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth as “professional conduct.” Any medical professional found in violation of the statute faces penalties ranging from fines to suspension and having one’s license revoked.

There are restrictions, however. The law only applies to minors under the age of 18 and does not pertain to religious entities.

LGBTQ advocates celebrated the passage of SB 5722, which sailed through the Senate last month with an overwhelming majority. Thirty-three lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while just 16 opposed the measure. The House approved the legislation by a 66-32 vote in February.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who was present as Inslee signed the bill into law, called conversion therapy “dangerous and abusive.”

“Medical professionals agree this harmful and discredited practice not only doesn’t work, but can also have life-threatening consequences,” he said in a statement. “We thank the many advocates, allies, parents, and survivors who spoke out against conversion therapy and urged their elected officials to adopt these crucial protections.”

Amit Paley, CEO of the suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project, said the anti-LGBTQ treatment “should be banned everywhere.”

“We are thankful that politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington States have joined together to protect LGBTQ youth,” Paley said in a press release. “This victory is part of a growing movement to stop conversion across the country and we won’t rest until conversion therapy is banned in all 50 states.”

By passing the legislation, Washington becomes the 10th state to prohibit orientation change attempts. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have already done so.

To date, bills to ban the practice have been introduced in 34 states.

Conversion therapy, which is also known as “reparative therapy,” has been condemned by nearly every leading U.S. medical association, including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. The practice can include everything from talk therapy to hypnosis and shock treatmentand is often compared to “torture.”

During testimony in the legislature, bill sponsor Sen. Marko Liias claimed a constituentreferred to as Dannihad “rubber bands [flicked] on his wrist” by a conversion therapist, who also placed “rocks in his shoes.”

Danni was forced into reparative counseling at just 14.

According to the pro-LGBTQ think tank The Williams Institute, an estimated 698,000 LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are survivors of conversion therapy, and 20,000 youth are currently at risk in states which have yet to prohibit the discredited practice.

But as Washington signed SB 5722 into law, another state moved one step closer to joining the growing list of states outlawing orientation change.

The Maryland Senate voted 34-12 in favor of an extremely similar piece of legislation on Wednesday, one that would mandate conversion therapy providers be “subject to discipline by the state licensing board,” as NBC Washington reports.

Bill sponsor Sen. Richard Madaleno, who is openly gay, says the treatment is a “a recipe for disaster, for depression, for anxiety and for suicide.”

The bill will now head to the House of Delegates, where it is likely to be approved by the Democrat-majority body. Although the state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, could veto the proposal, it has enjoyed surprising support among the GOP. Two conservative Senators joined their liberal colleagues in passing the legislation.

The Maryland General Assembly will need to approve the conversion therapy ban before April 9, when the legislature wraps for the year.

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