The Washington State Legislature passed a measure that bans conversion therapy on minors. Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) is expected to sign the bill soon. (This bill was signed into law by the governor on March 28th.)
The legislation would impose fines, license suspension or license revocation on mental health professionals who engage in the discredited practice. After the bill is signed into law, Washington will become the 11th state to ban conversion therapy on minors, which also is banned in the District of Columbia.
Conversion therapy is a violation of the American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics. The ACA position is that conversion therapy does not work, can cause harm and attempts to change sexual orientation, a human condition that is not recognized by the medical community as a disorder.
ACA Support of the Bill
The American Counseling Association followed the action on the House and Senate bills in Washington state—and encouraged Washington-based ACA members to ask their representatives in Olympia to support a conversion therapy ban. In all, ACA members sent 284 messages in support of this legislation to their representatives.
“I applaud the Washington legislature for this important step,” American Counseling Association Chief Executive Officer Richard Yep said. “When we take all of the facts into consideration, what we are left with is the reality that efforts to change sexual orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality do not work, have the potential to do great harm and are aimed at treating a mental health problem that does not exist. The mental health community has spoken in a clear voice that this practice should not be condoned. By signing this legislation, Governor Inslee will prevent one of Washington’s most vulnerable populations—children—from being subjected to a very painful and damaging experience.”
The Evidence against Conversion Therapy
The Report of the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, published in August 2009, provided evidence that conversion therapy is both ineffective and harmful. The APA report included a systematic review of the available research on sexual orientation change efforts—83 studies in all.
"Efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm," the report concluded.
According to the APA research, up to 50 percent of the participants in conversion therapy practices reported harmful effects from the attempt to change their sexual orientation.