Illinois House Votes to Protect LGBT Youth

Bipartisan House Vote to Protect Illinois LGBT Youth Moves Bill to Senate
Conversion therapy is a dangerous and ineffective treatment,
say a majority of representatives

CHICAGO (May 19, 2015) – A bipartisan Illinois House majority on Tuesday approved a measure to protect LGBT youth from dangerous, ineffective and discredited attempts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans, now calls on the Illinois Senate to approve House Bill 217, the Illinois Youth Mental Health Protection Act, before the scheduled May 31 adjournment of the General Assembly.

“Ending conversion therapy is our top priority in the legislature right now. Trying to change the unchangeable, our innate sexual orientation and gender identity, should not be attempted because it risks the health of LGBT youth,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

“We thank Rep. Kelly Cassidy, the chief House sponsor of HB217, for protecting the young people of Illinois and advancing this important legislation, and Sen. Daniel Biss, who is now taking up the bill in the Senate,” Cherkasov said.

The bill passed 68 to 43, with 61 Democrats and seven Republicans voting to protect the LGBT youth of Illinois, including the House Republican leader Rep. Jim Durkin among the “yes” votes. The roll call continues the history in Illinois of all laws that advance LGBT equality succeeding due to votes from both parties.

“The fact that there was a bipartisan vote in favor of the bill in the House demonstrates that this is again not an issue based on political affiliation but on doing what is right for Illinois children. We hope that Senate Democrats and Republicans will similarly give serious consideration to supporting the bill and that Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign it.”

Equality Illinois and allied organizations have held two meetings with Gov. Rauner about the issue, and he expressed concern about the therapy’s effect on young people.

The bill prohibits licensed mental health care providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with anyone under the age of 18. Sexual orientation change efforts are defined by the bill as any treatment or practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Such practices can negatively impact the mental and physical health of LGBT youth. For instance, LGBT youth who experience rejection and social stigmatization are more likely to have high levels of depression, more likely to engage in substance abuse, and more likely to attempt suicide.

Every major mental health organization in Illinois supports HB 217, including the Illinois Psychological Association, Illinois Psychiatric Society, American Psychoanalytic Association, Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The legislation does not apply to religious leaders and would not impact the ability of clergy to practice their religion. Similar legislation is now law in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, and the Oregon legislature has sent a bill to the governor. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to the New Jersey law.

The Illinois Youth Mental Health Protection Act is just one of our priorities during the session. Equality Illinois also supports proposals to enhance existing hate crime protections and to require funeral homes to honor requests regarding the gender identity of the deceased. Equality Illinois also is a member of the Responsible Budget Coalition opposing oppressive budget cuts to vital services and calling for adequate revenues.

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