Jordan Pyle, Staff Writer

Virginia became the 20th state, and the first state in the South, to ban conversion therapy for minors. Conversion therapy is “any of several practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity by using a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic, or physically painful stimuli to make the victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities.”

The ban was signed into law on March 2, 2020, by Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam. The measure, HB 386, will take effect on July 1 and will prohibit healthcare providers or counselors licensed by the state from subjecting anyone under eighteen to the practice. Doing so will be considered “unprofessional conduct and is grounds for disciplinary action.”

Northam was a pediatric neurologist before becoming the governor of Virginia, so he understands the mental and emotional effects of subjecting minors to conversion therapy. “Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are. This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effects on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide. No one should be made to feel they are not OK the way they are—especially not a child. I’m proud to sign this ban into law,” Northam said in a statement after signing the ban.

The practice has been condemned by most major health associations including the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association. The American Medical Association also backed the idea of a nationwide ban on conversion therapy in November of 2019.

Currently, the states that have placed a ban on conversion therapy for minors are California (2012), New Jersey (2013), Oregon (2015), Illinois (2015), Vermont (2016), New Mexico (2017), Connecticut (2017), Rhode Island (2017), Nevada (2017), Washington (2018), Hawaii (2018), Delaware (2018), Maryland (2018), New Hampshire (2018), New York (2019), Massachusetts (2019), Colorado (2019), Maine (2019), Utah (2020), and Virginia (2020).. There was also a ban put in place in 2014 in the District of Columbia.