Virginia has made LGBTQ history for the second time in as many months. On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill banning conversion therapy for minors in the state.
Virginia is the first southern state to ban the debunked and deeply dangerous practice. It is the 20th state in the country to outlaw conversion therapy, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
In a media statement, Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said that Virginia’s move to ban conversion therapy paves the way for other Southern states to follow suit.
“It’s a clear signal of the rapidly growing public support for LGBTQ equality in the South and sends a salient message: LGBTQ youth must be treated with respect, love, and support,” Beach-Ferrara added.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 26, 2020
In February, Virginia passed sweeping LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, which Northam is also expected to sign into law. The Virginia Values Act would extend nondiscrimination protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
LGBTQ advocates in Virginia are capitalizing on a Democratic majority in the legislature for the first time in more than two decades.
Advocates say banning conversion therapy is particularly pressing because the practice can lead to suicide.
Virginia just became the 20th state — and first Southern state — to protect LGBTQ youth from receiving #ConversionTherapy! Thank you @GovernorVA, @EqualityVA, @HopeforVirginia, @ssurovell, and countless others for their dedication to protecting LGBTQ youth #50Bills50States pic.twitter.com/s8SEV1ET6c
— The Trevor Project (@TrevorProject) March 3, 2020
According to LGBTQ suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project, queer youth who have undergone conversation therapy are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide. Fifty-seven percent of trans and nonbinary youth surveyed by Trevor reported an attempt in the last year after being subjected to the practice.
“This bold action will send a message to all LGBTQ young people in the great Commonwealth of Virginia that they are loved and deserve support,” said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for Trevor, in a press statement. “Conversion therapy has no place in modern society and as the first of many LGBTQ-affirming bills to reach the desk of Gov. Northam, we are happy to sweep conversion therapy into the dustbin of history.”
The new law will take effect on July 1, 2020.