Even though American politics are seemingly a neverending cycle of "bad," there are still good things happening, particularly on the state level. On July 23, the LGBTQ+ community celebrated a remarkable victory when the state of Delaware banned gay conversion therapy for minors. This move is something any advocate of LGBTQ+ rights should be ecstatic about — not just because it shows that Delaware's government supports LGBTQ+ youth, but it's a move that might be able to save countless lives down the line.
On July 23, Delaware Governor John Carney officially signed the state bill into law, prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from practicing gay conversion therapy on minors, according to The Hill. The "therapy," which attempts to change a person's sexual orientation, has been widely discredited and can harm those who undergo it. The bill outlines the damage that practicing conversion therapy can have on children as the overarching reason for banning this practice completely. The bill's synopsis states,
Conversion therapy has been rejected by all mainstream medical and mental health organizations, and there is no credible evidence that it is effective. Moreover, this practice poses enormous health risks to LGBTQ youth, including an increased sense of shame, guilt, hopelessness, stress, and anger, thus increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, and self-harm.
Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Sarah McBride, a Delaware native, applauded the move from her state's government in a press release on the non-profit's site. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is dangerous, cruel and uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization,” said McBride. “Today’s signing is a critical step forward in the fight to ensure that Delaware is a safe and affirming state for all LGBTQ youth."
With this law, Delaware has become the 15th state in the United States to ban gay conversion therapy for minors, and the fourth state to ban the practice this year alone. Delaware joins Washington D.C., Maryland, and California on the list of states and districts that have enacted this type of legislation in 2018, and there are other states that have similar bills waiting to be voted on. On June 27, the Massachusetts House approved a bill that would ban gay conversion therapy for minors in an overwhelming vote of 137-14, and that bill now awaits a vote from the state Senate.
Many studies have found that conversion therapy just doesn't work, and in fact can be extremely harmful to those who undergo it. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the practice of gay conversion therapy is linked to depression, anxiety, suicide in LGBTQ+ youth that have gone through these types of programs. The APA stated in a 2000 report that conversion therapy has great risks, "including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."
The Obama administration pushed for the nationwide ban of gay conversion therapy in 2015, with the White House stating in a petition that "The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm." A report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that same year provided scientific evidence of the harm that gay conversion therapy can have on minors, but bills that called for the total ban of conversion therapy never seemed to make it past Congress.
The good news is that it seems like states are taking it upon themselves to ban gay conversion therapy on minors. Hopefully other state governments will follow suit and ban this detrimental practice, just as Delaware and the other 14 states in the U.S. already have.