Rhode Island senate approves bill banning conversion therapy

Rhode Island ban on conversion therapy for minors.
Supporters of a legislative ban on conversion therapy on minors in Rhode Island rally at the state house.
[GLAD issued the following press release today:]

The Rhode Island Senate last night voted 31–1 to pass a bill, sponsored by Senator Donna Nesselbush, to prohibit licensed mental health providers from using the discredited and harmful practice on children and adolescents. The House version of the bill, sponsored by Representative Edith Ajello, passed unanimously on May 30.

“We are thrilled with last night’s vote, and with the strong support in both the House and Senate for this important measure,” said Wendy Becker, a coordinator of the efforts to ban conversion therapy in Rhode Island. “We know that conversion therapy is dangerous, harmful, and clinically unsound. Passing this law will make Rhode Island a safer and more welcoming place for LGBTQ youth. I’m hopeful that the legislature will act quickly to finalize its process and move the bill to Governor Raimondo’s desk for signature.”

So-called “conversion therapy” encompasses a variety of discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy has been rejected as both ineffective and harmful by every mainstream medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and Rhode Island Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The practice can be especially harmful to youth, leaving them at increased risk for depression, anxiety, substance use, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide.

The bill prohibits any licensed healthcare professional in Rhode Island from practicing conversion therapy with anyone under 18.

“Banning conversion therapy will make a tremendous difference for LGBTQ youth in Rhode Island,” said Janson Wu, Executive Director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which worked to support the bill. “Attempts to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation not only do not work, they are harmful. We should be working to create a climate where all youth feel supported and affirmed. In voting to pass this bill today, the Senate sent a message to LGBTQ youth that they are ok just as they are.”

Nevada, Connecticut, California, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington DC have passed similar laws banning the harmful and discredited practice.