Washington DC Becomes First US Territory To Ban Conversion Therapy For Adults

The US capital has banned 'gay conversion therapy' for adults, with Mayor Muriel Bowser signing ACT 22-573 into law this week.

Person in Washington DC with a rainbow flag over their back, holding an American flag
Image: Time via Getty Images

Mayor of US capital Washington DC Muriel Bowser signed ACT 22-573 into law on January 16, making the city the first in the United States to protect LGBT+ people over the age of 18 from the dangerous practice of ‘gay conversion therapy‘.

The bill, which was initially introduced and authored by Councilmember Mary Cheh, was passed unanimously by the DC Council on December 4.

Cheh explained why the ban is important to LGBT+ peoples:

“Medical and mental health professionals condemn the practice of conversion therapy, which is why I previously banned the practice for minors: to protect them from the increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and suicide that is associated with this harmful practice.

“This bill now fills a further gap to ensure that conversion therapy cannot be forced on someone who is unable to provide consent.

“It is courageous to live an open, honest life—full of purpose and meaning. I see none of those values in these types of therapies and they must not be accepted in the District of Columbia.”

LGBT+ activists in Washington DC have praised the move. Head of advocacy for LGBT+ suicide prevention group The Trevor Project said, “Nobody should be subjected to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy. This is especially true of those, like minors or adults under guardianship, who are limited in their ability to consent to these so-called ‘treatments’.

“The Trevor Project was proud to offer testimony in support of this legislation, and we are grateful to the DC Council for acting to protect vulnerable LGBTQ adults.”

Meanwhile, Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, senior policy counsel of the National LGBTQ Task Force said, “With this measure, DC is leading the nation in protecting some of our most vulnerable LGBTQ people—those who despite their adulthood are not allowed by the state to make their own medical decisions.

“Far too often we’ve seen guardianship being used to prevent LGBTQ people from being who they are. This bill is a monumental step in the right direction and we hope other states follow DC’s example.”

The bill comes after a report was published last year which found that 698,000 LGBT+ adults aged 18-59 in the US had to go through this so-called ‘conversion therapy’.

Washington DC first banned this kind of practice on minors in 2015, but it became clear that protections needed to be extended to adults as well.

Director of public policy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network explained why the ban is important:

“Guardians of disabled adults are often empowered to make medical and mental health decisions without the adults’ consent.

“This bill will ensure that, at least, those decisions won’t include forcing disabled LGBT adults into abusive and coercive ‘therapies’ that we know to be harmful.”

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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