In a few short weeks, the nation will be watching closely as the U.S. Senate begins its confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been tapped by President Trump as the replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy. If confirmed to the highest court in the land, Kavanaugh would be tasked with immediately deciding what our Constitution means and how it will affect the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans and their families.
For the past three years, legislators in Colorado have worked to ban conversion therapy, a dangerous and discredited practice where licensed mental health professionals try to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
For the past three years, I’ve sat next to — and listened to — survivors’ saddening and terrifying stories in committee hearings. For the past three years, Republican leadership in the Colorado Senate has blocked this legislation from reaching the Senate floor for debate and a vote. And in those past three years, seven more states have passed laws to ban this practice, bringing the total to nine states plus the District of Columbia, with many cities across the country following suit. An additional 20 states have attempted to ban conversion therapy in the past year alone, with varied results.
Studies show lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer young people are already much more likely to face bullying, harassment, and family rejection just because of who they are. The futile and extremely harmful practice of conversion therapy further isolates these young people and sets them up for a range of serious, negative mental health outcomes. Banning these abusive practices, in Colorado and across the country, is an important step to protecting the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.
That is why the Movement Advancement Project recently released their The LGBT Policy Spotlight: Conversion Therapy Bans report. This report is an update to a 2015 report on conversion therapy and concludes with the recommendation that states should pass legislation, like that recently signed in New Mexico and Rhode Island, to ban harmful conversion therapy practices on minors.
Every mainstream mental and medical professional association in the country, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and several other renowned medical groups, have discounted conversion therapy as a legitimate practice.
Laws and policies that protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy are needed to ensure that therapists who are licensed by the state are providing competent, affirming care and are not harming their patients. Minors are almost always forced or coerced to undergo conversion therapy rather than opting to undertake these treatments on their own. Conversion therapy is harmful to those who are subjected to it by increasing the risk for depression, anxiety, other mental health disorders, homelessness, drug abuse, self-harm, and suicide — and the risks are even greater for young people. Conversion therapy is a dangerous, harmful, unscientific, and illegitimate practice that should be discouraged and denounced as a means of changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The recent increase in the amount of states that have banned this practice show that now, more than ever, Colorado must send a clear message to the LGBTQ community — especially to LGBTQ young people — that who you are is not something that needs to be cured or fixed. Not one more LGBTQ young person should be subjected to this harmful practice and it’s time Colorado follows the lead of these other states to ban conversion therapy once and for all.