Illinois House Committee approves ban on anti-gay "conversion therapy" on minors

Representative Kelly Cassidy of Illinois is sponsoring a bill that seeks to ban the practice of so-called "conversion therapy" or "ex-gay therapy" on minors. Last week, the bill—titled the Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act--was approved by the state's House Human Services Committee in a 9-6 vote.

MSNBC reported on the bill's advancement:

Cassidy’s bill states that “no mental health provider shall engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under the age of 18,” and that “any sexual orientation change effort attempted on a person under the age of 18 by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and that a mental health provider found to have engaged in a sexual orientation change effort shall be disciplined by the licensing entity or disciplinary review board with competent jurisdiction.” 

“Frequently parents aren’t going to know what to do and are going to turn to mental health professionals,” said Cassidy. “They need to use science in their practice, and not mislead families and abuse children.”

The belief that people could change their sexual orientation through force of will or faith has been a staple of the anti-gay rights movement, a lingering manifestation of an earlier and erroneous psychological belief that being gay is a form of mental illness. Conversion therapy has been criticized by medical health professionals as useless if not actively harmful. It is opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association. The World Health Organization released a statement in 2012 saying that “services that purport to ‘cure’ people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” In 2012, Robert L. Spitzer, the psychiatrist whose research the “ex-gay” movement had seized on, recanted and apologized for the harm his work had caused. 

The overwhelming medical consensus is that conversion therapy doesn’t work, and can actually cause harm. California has banned it for minors. New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, an opponent of same-sex marriage rights, signed a similar ban into law last year. A federal court recently upheld California’s ban, and other states besides Illinois have considered following California and New Jersey’s lead. 

While such a ban is in place in California and New Jersey, Minnesota's state legislature recently rejected a bill that would criminalize "conversion therapy" practiced on minors.

You can read the full story from MSNBC here.

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