The new law, which takes effect in June, will deem it “unprofessional conduct” for a licensed health-care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18.
OLYMPIA — A measure banning licensed therapists from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity was signed into law Wednesday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Inslee signed the bill joined by lawmakers and other LGTB supporters, including Democratic Sen. Marko Liias, the bill’s sponsor, and Chad Griffin, the president of the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.
Inslee called conversion therapy abuse, and said that “we are today prohibiting the abuse of our children.”
“We have always believed in civil rights in our state,” he said. “We believe in tolerance for all.”
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The new law, which takes effect in June, will deem it “unprofessional conduct” for a licensed health-care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18. Under the measure, if the provider violates the law, he or she faces sanctions ranging from fines to license revocation or suspension. The measure does not apply to nonlicensed counselors operating as part of a religious organization, religious denomination or church.
Opponents of the new law say it is too broad and argue that current laws and regulations already prevent abuse by a therapist.
“No one is defending the torture of children for any reason, much less for therapeutic principles,” said Joseph Backholm, president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “The only real purpose of this is to stigmatize a set of ideas that the political majority doesn’t like. It takes away choices from kids who want help with struggles in their life.”
Griffin, of the Human Rights Campaign, called conversion therapy debunked science that can cause long-lasting physical and mental harm to youth.
He said the new law sends “a profound message to LTBQ people everywhere that they are loved, valued and protected under the law.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Washington now joins 10 other states — including California and Oregon — plus the District of Columbia that have laws or regulations banning conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender minors. A handful of other states have measures pending, including Maryland, where a measure passed the Senate on Wednesday and now heads to the House.