Conversion therapy on minors banned in Washington — and entire West Coast | KUOW News and Information

Conversion therapy on minors banned in Washington — and entire West Coast

Mar 28, 2018

The entire U.S. West Coast now prohibits counselors from using conversion therapy on minors.

On Wednesday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that prohibits licensed therapists from using conversation therapy with youth under age 18. Inslee, a Democrat, was surrounded by kids and LGBTQ rights advocates when he signed the bill.

"The scars that have been caused by conversion therapy need to end today in the state of Washington," Inslee said.

The practice seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  The American Medical Association is among multiple accredited groups that oppose it, and says it can cause mental and emotional harm.

The District of Columbia and 10 states, including California and Oregon, already ban the practice. The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights group, advocates for more states to do the same. 

"This should send a loud and clear message that the practice that some call conversion therapy is child abuse," HRC President Chad Griffin said at the bill-signing in Olympia.

He said in some cases, the therapy can lead to suicidal thoughts in young people.

Washington's law will go into effect in June. It will not apply to religious clergy or other non-licensed counselors who work with youth in religious settings.

Opponents of the ban argued the state shouldn't dictate what kind of treatment teenagers can receive, and that conversion therapy has helped some people achieve a more fulfilling life. They say banning conversion therapy is a slippery slope to restricting freedom of religion.

State officials will seek the public’s help to report therapists who continue to offer "conversion" or "reparative" therapy. There is not a widespread registry of which counselors conduct the practice.