Equality Illinois Plans Initiative to Pass Conversion Therapy Ban
Dangerous Therapy Imperils LGBT Youth
CHICAGO (January 20, 2015) – Equality Illinois on Tuesday announced an initiative to pass legislation banning ineffectual and dangerous conversion therapy during this new term of the Illinois General Assembly in order to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago introduced the bill on Friday. House Bill 217, the Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act, would make it illegal for mental health care providers to engage in sexual orientation change efforts with anyone under the age of 18. A Senate version will be introduced soon, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston.
“Illinois should be at the forefront of banning this failed and discredited non-therapy that attempts to change the unchangeable, our innate sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest civil rights organization advocating for LGBT Illinoisans.
“It is tragic,” said Rep. Cassidy, “that LGBT youth suffer at the hands of so-called experts whose therapies have been refuted by every legitimate medical and mental health organization. That is why my bill would label the therapy as ‘unprofessional conduct’ and subject the perpetrator to disciplinary action.”
Conversion therapy bans are the law in California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. Cherkasov noted that multiple respected medical and mental health organizations have rejected the therapy because it does not work and has the great potential to harm the youth on which is is tried. They include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
In drafting the bill, Rep.Cassidy cited the increased risk to the mental health of LGBT youth who are rejected by their families. “In one study, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection,” the bill says.
The danger was brought home over the New Year’s holiday when Ohio teenager Leelah Alcorn, a transgender girl, committed suicide, leaving behind a message that her parents had refused to accept her as transgender and had attempted to change her through forced participation in conversion therapy.
“We cannot endanger the LGBT teens of Illinois by attempting to change who they are. We and other organizations that support LGBT youth hear their stories of rejection, and we must fight to help them,” Cherkasov said. “We are making the passage of the Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act one of our legislative priorities of the 99th Illinois General Assembly.”
A similar bill was defeated in the House last year on a 44-51 roll call. Cherkasov said that Equality Illinois will embark on a two-pronged strategy to secure passage of the law during the legislature’s two-year term that began last week and is encouraging other legislators to join Rep. Cassidy and Sen. Biss in cosponsoring the bills.
“Our new Equality Illinois Director of Public Policy Michael Ziri and our bipartisan Springfield lobbying team will work closely with Rep. Cassidy, Sen. Biss and other legislative and organizational allies to educate members of the House and Senate and determine the best strategy and tactics for securing passage of the bill and ultimately the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner,” Cherkasov said.
“At the same time, Equality Illinois Director of Field Operations Patty Dillon will be working to educate the public about the dangers of conversion therapy and why it needs to be banned in Illinois,” Cherkasov said. “At the right time we will be calling on the public to contact their legislators and the governor’s office to urge them to do the right thing and support the Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act.”
Equality Illinois and the bill’s sponsors are calling on Illinoisans to share their stories of encounters with conversion therapy. It is important that their stories are heard. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.