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Gov. Carney signs law banning conversion therapy

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Licensed mental health professionals in Delaware are now prohibited from practicing conversion therapy on minors, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. John Carney Monday.

Conversion or reparative therapy attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people.

Delaware is the 14th state plus Washington D.C. to enact a law banning the practice. New York State has regulations in place restricting conversion therapy.

The new Delaware law makes the practice unprofessional conduct for licensed medical and mental health professionals in the state—and grounds for discipline.

“We are not aware of anyone currently practicing conversion therapy in Delaware,” said Goodman. “We are aware of a number of young people through the years who have been referred out by Delaware licenced mental health professionals to people doing conversion therapy out of state, and that is one thing that this bill will also prohibit.”

The law also specifically prevents the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families from recommending conversion therapy.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte), one of the bill’s sponsors, says the practice puts LBGTQ youth at greater risk for self-harm.

“Conversion Therapy is pseudoscience and child endangerment, plain and simple,” said Heffernan.

Transgender rights advocate and Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Sarah McBride says the conversion therapy ban makes Delaware a safer place for young LGBTQ people across the state.

“LGBTQ youth, when they come out, may fear being exposed to this abusive practice, so this bill definitely remedies a harm that exists in this state. But it also articulates the values of our state,” she said.

Conversion therapy is opposed by the American Psychological Association, which has rejected portrayals of LGBTQ people as mentally ill because of their sexual orientations since the 1990s.

Delaware’s bill banning conversion therapy for minors passed the state Senate in May 2017, and the House this past June. It was also sponsored by Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington).

This spring, state Rep. Richard Collins (R-Millsboro) introduced an amendment to the bill that would have allowed conversion therapy if a patient requests it. The amendment did not pass.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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