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Vermont Senate Moves Ban On Conversion Therapy To House

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The Vermont Senate has given final approval advancing a bill that bans a practice called "conversion therapy."  It’s a premise in which psychological treatment is undertaken to change the sexual orientation of a gay or lesbian individual to make them heterosexual.
Conversion therapy is also known by other catchwords including reparative treatment or sexual reorientation therapy.  It is most often directed at young gay and lesbian individuals who are most vulnerable about their sexual identities.

Vermont’s legislation makes the practice unprofessional conduct.  A medical or mental health professional who uses conversion therapy with anyone younger than 18 would be subject to sanction by a state regulatory board.
The bill’s sponsor Senator Brian Campion says he came out to his mother when he was about 12 or 13 years old.    “Left a note on the kitchen table saying ‘Listen, I’m concerned about this weighing on me.’  She had a conversation with me.  It was ‘listen your father and I love you.  We’re going to love you no matter what.  We don’t want you to worry about this.  Enjoy childhood.’  These aren’t the exact words, but it was an incredible message. And that’s what I want for other people.  I want other young people to have that experience.  And I know for the most part we’re moving in that direction.  But having learned how this kind of conversion therapy exists in other states, I and others thought it was the right message to send to make sure it doesn’t happen in Vermont and to make certain that young people who are struggling at this point in their lives let them know that we’re proud of who they are and we’re going to support them.”

Groups including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Counseling Association say conversion therapy is not scientifically valid and is harmful to the psychological wellbeing of an individual.

Outright Vermont Executive Director Melissa Murray finds it galling that conversion therapy tries to make being queer or trans-identified a mental illness.   “The idea that being somehow  queer or trans-identified is something that needs to be fixed or something that can be fixed is obviously very dangerous especially because when youth come out to their parents, parents struggle with that.  And we want parents to struggle with that and eventually get to a point of understanding and honoring their child’s identity and not thinking that there is a way to fix it. Identity is something that should be celebrated and respected.  You shouldn’t try to get rid of those identities.”

Pride Center of Vermont Executive Director Kim Fountain testified before the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare on the need to pass the ban.  She provided data on the number of LGBTQ youth in Vermont and explained that similar laws in other states have been upheld by the courts.   “It’s incredibly important.  You want to make certain that, especially our very vulnerable youth population because this is for people who are under 18 that they have all the protections in place that they can possibly have. There are people who testified at the Senate hearing that said that they actually don’t support a ban on conversion therapy. And because of this we know that there are people out there who actually believe that it’s perfectly fine to try to force someone who’s under age 18 to change their sexuality as if it was putting on a new sweater or something. And so that’s very important.  It’s important to make certain that those protections are in place.”

The measure now moves to the House.

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