Grassroots Group To Host Rally at Kentucky State Capitol Urging Legislation To Ban Conversion Therapy; Survivors Speak Out as Polls Show a Majority of Residents Support Statewide Ban

The Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky (BCTK) coalition will be holding a rally at the Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort today to urge the passage of The Youth Mental Health Protection Act (HB19 and SB30). The focus of these bills is to ban anti-LGBTQ “conversion therapy” on minors under the age of 18 by licensed mental health providers. According to Tanner Mobley, executive director of BCTK, the rally will be Tuesday, March 16 at 1:15 PM EDT. A live stream of the event will be broadcast on the BCTK Facebook page.

“There’s a national conversation around the urgent need to protect minors from so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ and right now Kentucky is at the heart of this conversation,” said Mobley.

“Our polling shows that Republicans and Democrats, evangelicals and Catholics alike agree that it’s time for Kentucky to protect our LGBTQ youth – but to make this bill a reality, leadership needs to prioritize this issue and take action right away. It’s not just the right thing to do – but it’s also politically popular, across the political spectrum.”

Kentucky has seen a growing bipartisan push by state legislators to end conversion therapy. The bill has been introduced by Republican cosponsors Representative Kim Banta, and Senator Alice Forgy Kerr.

The Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky (BCTK) coalition has been building momentum around the legislation in recent years, rallying support from over 100 organizations such as the Kentucky Psychological Association, Kentucky Nurses Association, Kentucky Medical Association, and Kentucky Mental Health Coalition.

“When I found out that the same ‘therapists’ who did this to me over 10 years ago were still practicing here in Kentucky, I knew I had to come forward and tell my story,” Zach Meiners, a conversion therapy survivor, told GLAAD.

“Conversion ‘therapy’ taught me to hate myself and nearly ended my life,” said Meiners. “Being taught these methods, all while being told that you must change in order to be loved and accepted, is a horrifying wound in our community. They must be brought into the light and stopped.”

Meiners is a 31-year-old gay filmmaker based in Louisville. He was initiated into conversion therapy at 14, shortly after being outed, and endured the practice for four years. The damaging experience caused him to go back into the closet until he was 26. Today, Zach is an openly gay man who combines his skills as a filmmaker and his passion for activism to cause positive change into the world and is working to ensure that no child has to be subjected to this practice ever again.

If passed, Kentucky would become the 21st state in the nation, and only the 4th state in the South, to ban so-called “conversion” or “reparative” anti-LGBTQ therapy. More than 15 leading medical organizations have condemned the practice, which uses unproven, harmful methods in unsuccessful attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to a 2019 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 16,000 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 - 17 will receive conversion therapy before their 18th birthday. The Williams Institute estimates 10,000 LGBTQ youth have been protected from conversion therapy in states where it has been banned.

Impact of Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ+ Kentuckians:

  • According to a 2021 poll, 74% of Kentuckians oppose putting LGBTQ+ minors through “conversion” therapy. 57% of Kentuckians are in favor of banning the practice in the state. On the political front, candidates who oppose conversion therapy are more likely to earn 52% of the votes by likely voters.
  • Over one-quarter of the state’s House of Representatives are co-sponsoring the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, mostly due in part to organizing efforts by BCTK. According to a survey by BCTK bipartisan support in the Kentucky State House and Senate was nearly at 50%. The organization says that six recently elected Republicans have pledged to cosponsor the bill as well.
  • According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), 20 states currently ban conversion therapy for minors, these include New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Maine, Utah, and Virginia. One state, North Carolina, partially bans conversion therapy for minors.