WILMINGTON – Governor John Carney signed into law Monday a bill outlawing the harmful, pseudo-scientific practice of conversion therapy by licensed medical professionals in Delaware.
Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, prohibits licensed medical, mental health, or social work professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors or referring them to out-of-state practitioners of conversion therapy. The bill also prevents the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF) from engaging in or recommending conversion therapy.
“It doesn’t take a particularly strong moral compass to see that conversion therapy deserves to be unequivocally and universally condemned,” said Sen. McDowell. “Conversion therapy is child abuse. It always has been and it always will be. It is steeped in the shameful history of lobotomy, chemical castration, and other horrific injustices perpetrated against LGBTQ individuals and children in my lifetime. Even today, despite the overwhelming opposition from the medical community, so-called psychologists continue to offer ‘reparative therapy’ in some parts of the US. That it takes place anywhere is appalling and I am proud to have played a part in protecting Delaware children from such pseudo-science. Not only will this law save lives and prevent further abuse in this state, it is my hope that it will contribute to the elimination of conversion therapy nationwide.”
Legislators in the Delaware House of Representatives, which passed SB 65 on a 24-14 vote, applauded the signing.
"Conversion therapy is a dehumanizing, long-discredited practice that has been debunked by every mainstream medical and mental health organization,” said lead House sponsor Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred. "The ‘practice’ is a sham, has traumatic implications, and quite frankly has no place in Delaware. With Governor Carney's signature, SB 65 makes a strong statement that we stand for equality and against bigotry and injustice. Delaware's LGBTQ community is a vital part of our state and I am so proud that we were able to ban the destructive practice of conversion therapy."
Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” claims to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But doctors, psychologists, and medical associations around the country have refuted conversion therapy since the 1990s, pointing to evidence that it led to severe psychological and emotional trauma, depression, self-harm, and suicide among patients.
In 2000, the American Psychiatric Association stated that they opposed “any psychiatric treatment ... based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the assumption that a patient should change his or her sexual orientation.”
“All Delawareans, including Delaware children, deserve to be respected for who they are, and I was proud to sign this legislation into law today,” said Governor John Carney. “Discredited practices like conversion therapy have no place in Delaware, and I’m thankful for the legislators and advocates who moved this bill forward. Thank you specifically to Representative Heffernan and Senator McDowell for their leadership on this important issue, and to all members of the General Assembly who voted to make this new law a reality.”
Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Sarah McBride returned to her home state toattend the signing and hailed the new law as a major victory for LGBTQ youth.
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is dangerous, cruel and uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization,” said McBride. “While significant challenges remain for many LGBTQ youth across Delaware, today’s signing is a critical step forward in the ongoing fight to ensure that we are a safe and affirming state for all young people. The Human Rights Campaign is grateful to the many advocates, allies, parents, and survivors who spoke out against this abusive practice, Senator McDowell and Representative Heffernan for their leadership in the legislature, and Governor Carney for signing this bill into law."
“SB 65 ends an important message that a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is neither capable of being changed nor does it need to be changed, and efforts to try to do so in the name of therapy have no place in our State,” said Mark Purpura, a board member of Equality Delaware. “Instead, we should strive to understand and support each child’s unique personal identity to better empower them to thrive in school, at home, and in our community. Equality Delaware is thankful for the leadership of Senator McDowell and Representative Heffernan and their legislative aides, the other co-sponsors of this bill, and Governor Carney for signing it into law today.”
SB 65 took effect upon signature on Monday.