Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner this week signed into law the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, making Illinois the fourth state in the U.S. to be so-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy for LGBT youth. Other states that have already outlawed such practices are New Jersey, Oregon and California.
The law, which Rauner signed Thursday, Aug. 20, prohibits any mental health provider from trying to change the sexual orientation of anyone under age 18. It also prohibits mental health providers from referring a client or patient to any one else for “conversion” therapy. Attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or referring a patient to someone else for such treatments will now be considered unprofessional conduct and is subject to discipline by the licensing entity or disciplinary review board with jurisdiction.
Both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have long since condemned “conversion” or “reparative” therapy as discredited quackery. Both associations have said that being LGBT is not an illness nor a disorder and so LGBT people have no need of being repaired nor converted.
Many experts have also said that forcing LGBT individuals, especially LGBT youth, to undergo conversion therapy can be damaging to their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Brent Holman-Gomez and Bob Schwartz, organizers of the LGBT advocacy organization Gay Liberation Network, first proposed legislation banning conversion therapy to state Reps. Kelly Cassidy and Greg Harris in January 2014. This week Holman-Gomez called enactment of the ban “a great advance in the rights of youth, and for society as a whole.”
Sam Wolfe, an attorney with Southern Poverty Law Center which also advocates against conversion therapy, said that Illinois lawmakers “did the right thing by passing a law to protect LGBT youth from the harmful and fraudulent practice … . What’s new and progressive about Illinois’ law banning this ‘therapy’ is that it’s the first to include a provision that says advertising this practice amounts to consumer fraud.”
Wolfe noted that in June a New Jersey jury found that a conversion therapy provider there violated the state’s consumer fraud law by offering such services.
“It is exciting to see the SPLC’s landmark consumer fraud case against a provider of conversion therapy so quickly have an influence on lawmakers,” Wolfe said of the Illinois law’s passage. “With federal legislation to ban conversion therapy pending, we hope — and expect — to see the drumbeat continue against this unconscionable practice.
Rauner signed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act just one day shy of the 60-day deadline by which the state’s constitution requires legislation be signed or vetoed by the governor, or it goes into effect automatically.