Delaware Governor John Carney (D) signed legislation on Monday banning licensed mental health professionals from practicing gay conversion therapy on minors.
The bill, SB 65, defines conversion therapy or “reparative therapy” as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity … including any effort to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”
The American Psychological Association condemns conversion therapy, writing in a report that the practice is based on “a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions.” The legislation cites the APA which found that conversion or reparative therapy can pose “critical health risks” including depression, shame, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and increased self-hatred.
“All Delawareans, including Delaware children, deserve to be respected for who they are, and I was proud to sign Senate Bill 65 into law today,” Carney tweeted on Monday. “Discredited practices like conversion therapy have no place in Delaware.”
The new law makes Delaware the 14th state in addition to Washington, D.C., that has banned minors from receiving the controversial practice. Other states that have outlawed conversion therapy for minors include New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Hawaii. Some outlets are reporting that Delaware is the 15th state, but advocacy groups have pointed out that while New York’s governor has restricted conversion therapy, there still isn’t a specific law banning the practice.
“Conversion therapy is pseudoscience and child endangerment, plain and simple,” one of the bill’s sponsors, State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte), told Delaware Pubic Media.
Sarah McBride, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, applauded the passage of the bill in a Monday 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,” she said.
Board member of Equality Delaware Mark Purpura added that this legislation is integral to ensuring that LGBTQ minors are protected under Delaware law.
“This bill sends an important message that a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is neither capable of being changed nor does it need to be changed, and efforts to try to do so in the name of therapy have no place in our State,” he said. “Instead, we should strive to understand and support each child’s unique personal identity to better empower them to thrive in school, at home, and in our community.”