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News >  WA Government

Conversion therapy for LGBT youth banned in Washington state

UPDATED: Wed., March 28, 2018

Gov. Jay Inslee, seated, shakes hands with Chad Griffin, the president of the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign after a bill banning licensed therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, in Olympia, Wash. (Rachel La Corte / AP)
Gov. Jay Inslee, seated, shakes hands with Chad Griffin, the president of the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign after a bill banning licensed therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, in Olympia, Wash. (Rachel La Corte / AP)

OLYMPIA – Washington sent a message Wednesday that a practice known as “conversion therapy” not only doesn’t work, but can be harmful to the LGBT youth it is seeking to change.

A law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee declares such efforts to change a minor’s sexual orientation, romantic attraction or gender identity as unprofessional conduct that could cost medical practitioners their license.

Licensed practitioners doing conversion therapy will have to stop, Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said.

“Focus on medically acceptable, medically sound practices that will help the patient,” Liias said.

The law relies on the community to report instances of conversion therapy on minors, Monisha Harrell, chair of Equal Rights Washington, said.

“Part of our implementation of this (is) to find out where those licensed practitioners are practicing underground,” she said.

The law does not apply to unlicensed counselors working for religious organizations and churches, although it might still apply to a religiously affiliated person with a counseling license.

“Some pastors also do licensed mental health therapies, so that part of it would be a question,” said Liias.

Conversion therapy is deeply harmful, said Chad Griffin, president of the national Human Rights Campaign.

“The practice that some call conversion therapy is child abuse,” he said. “This is not a legitimate practice. It is debunked science.”

It also clarifies that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth will be accepted as themselves, Liias said.

“We don’t want our queer youth to change,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with them.”

Inslee said the law is also important for well-meaning parents who don’t understand the practice’s harmful effects.

“We try to teach our students not to bully each other,” he said. “If you’re going to teach students not to bully each other, we ought not to have fake professionals telling people this is something that can, or should, be fixed.”

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