Colorado Is Now the 18th State to Ban Conversion Therapy on Minors
By Mikelle Street
All the States Where Conversion Therapy on Minors is Banned
Conversion therapy is a dangerous, debunked series of methods that have existed since at least the 1970s that hope to change a patient's sexuality or gender. Over time, those practices have been found to be without scientific bases and have instead found to be harmful, leading to “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior," according to the American Psychiatric Association. As more research came out the pseudoscience, some of its main proponents began to disavow it — In June of 2013, Exodus International, a Christian group that was one of the leaders in the techniques apologized for the harm it had done and disbanded.
In 2012, states began to outlaw the practice against minors under the age of 18, bolstered at times by organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, Born Perfect and more as well as major media attention. In 2018 there was a pop culture watershed moment with the release of films like Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
Here are all of the states (and a few territories) that have outlawed conversion therapy, called by some the "gay cure," in chronological order.
Two in one week: Only days after Maine signed a bill banning conversion therapy on minors, Colorado followed suit on May 31, 2019. HB19-1129 marks the first time that an openly gay governor (Jared Polis) signed a ban on the practice, which extends to state-licensed mental health care providers. Alongside this, the state passed a measure to make it easier for citizens to update their gender on their birth certificate to male, female, or x for those who are non-binary.
While legislation banning conversion therapy was vetoed by Governor Paul LePage in 2018, Governor Janet Mills signed HP755 into law on May 29, 2019. Representative Ryan Fecteau was the prime sponsor of the legislation.
"The Trevor Project applauds the hard work of Representative Fecteau, EqualityMaine, and all of the advocates and lawmakers in Maine for their perseverance,” said Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. “After the disappointment of last year's veto, they came back stronger and passed legislation to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangers of conversion therapy. We will continue to push each and every day to insure that every state in the country follows Maine's example and ends this cruel practice once and for all."
Though it is not a state, the U.S. territor Puerto Rico banned conversion therapy in an executive order by its governor, Ricardo Rosselló, in March 2019. Rosselló, who is also a scientist, signed the order into law after a similar bill was blocked in the House of Representatives by his own political party.
15. New York
Though Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted a series of regulations via executive order in February 2016 the barred insurance companies from covering conversion therapy in New York State in February 2016, the governor strengthened that position in January 2019. The laws had long been in discussion but began to see real traction once the Democrats took control of the Legislature.
"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," Delaware Governor John Carney said in a tweet according to USA Today after the July 2018 signing. "Discredited practices like conversion therapy have no place in Delaware."
13. New Hampshire
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed House Bill 587 which outlawed conversion therapy in minors alongside House Bill 1319, a antidiscrimination bill that created protections for trans people. The passing of the laws in June 2018 was controversial according to WMUR.
"I'm so proud of everyone's hard work," Delegate Meagan Simonaire said to CBS of the bill's passing in May 2018. She had spoken on the House floor about her experience of coming out as bisexual and her parent's recommendation that she undergo conversion therapy. "It's been a long time coming."
10. Washington State
"We are thankful that politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington States have joined together to protect LGBTQ youth," said Trevor Project CEO Amit Paley in a press release, after Washington governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law in March 2018.
9. Rhode Island
This legislation, which started in the House, was signed into law by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo in July 2017.
“This law will help protect some of our state’s most vulnerable youth," Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said in May 2017 when he signed Senate Bill 201 into law.
“At a time when we see harassment increasing against anyone perceived as being different, at a time when we see the rights of our friends and neighbors being threatened by the national government, at a time when we see L.G.B.T.Q. youth turning to suicide at record rates, to remain silent is to be complicit,” Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement published after the signing in May 2017, according to the New York Times.
6. New Mexico
“As a survivor of conversion therapy that happened right here in my home state of New Mexico, it's a very special day to see this barbaric and dangerous practice banned in the place that I grew up and call home,” said Equality New Mexico Executive Director Amber Royster, in April 2017 when New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed Senate Bill 121 into law. “My hope is that parents and families everywhere will think twice before seeking to change their LGBTQ child or loved one, and now we have the legal mechanism to ensure it doesn't happen at the hands of licensed practitioners in New Mexico."
“It's absurd to think that being gay or transgender is something to be cured of,” Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said in a press release announcing he had signed Senate Bill 132 into law in May 2016. “Our country has come a long way in a short period of time in recognizing the civil rights of members of the LGBT community, and I am so proud that Vermont has taken a leadership role at every step of the way. At a time when the rights of LGBT individuals are under attack in other parts of the country, Vermont will continue to stand up to hatred and bigotry and show the rest of the country what tolerance, understanding, and common humanity look like.”
The "Youth Mental Health Protection Act" signed into law in August 2015 in Illionois made it illegal for mental health providers to engage in "sexual orientation change efforts" with minor or refer patients to others who might.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown became emotional as she signed House Bill 2307 into law in May 2015. "There are many things young people need, but breaking them down based on their sexual or gender identity is not one of them — and in fact, it's inexcusable," the bisexual governor said according to The Advocate.
2. New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law in August 2013 that outlawed the therapy. At the time he was considered a possible Republican presidential candidate, but waited until the last moment to sign the legislation. If he had not signed, the bil would have still passed.
In 2012, California became the first state to ban conversion therapy, then mostly referred to as the "gay cure," on minors. The ban was upheld in 2013 in a unanimous decision by the federal appeals court. “The First Amendment does not prevent a state from regulating treatment even when that treatment is performed through speech alone,” the opinion said according to the New York Times.