Mental Health Experts Support Therapy Ban

Lawmakers Should Heed Illinois Mental Health Experts’
Support for Conversion Therapy Ban

SPRINGFIELD (March 17, 2015) – A letter released today by respected mental health, medical and academic organizations in Illinois strongly supporting the Illinois Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act is a significant statement that explains the dangers of harmful and ineffective efforts to force LGBT youth to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Equality Illinois, the state’s largest advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans, calls on the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner to heed the experts, who urge that the legislation be passed and signed. The letter was released in Springfield as the House Juvenile Justice Committee scheduled a hearing on the measure, House Bill 217, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, this afternoon.

Signatories to the letter (which can be read here) include the Illinois Psychological Association, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, the National Association of Social Workers-Illinois Chapter, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Illinois Psychiatric Society, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Adler University, the Illinois Public Health Association, the Institute for Clinical Social Work, and the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association, the Illinois School Counselor Association, and the Coalition of Illinois Counselors.

“Our position is guided by scientific evidence and an adherence to the medical dictum to ‘First, do no harm,’ ” the letter says. “To justify sexual orientation change efforts, conversion therapists define homosexuality as a sickness or disorder requiring conversion therapy. However, sexual orientation and gender identity are not mental disorders or diseases, and, therefore, ethical mental health practitioners should not attempt to ‘cure’ or ‘repair’ LGBT people through the use of sexual orientation change efforts.”

LGBT youth who feel rejected “are more likely to have high levels of depression, more likely to engage in substance abuse, and more likely to attempt suicide,” it says.

The letter further says that proponents of conversion therapy have no scientific backing and are driven “by forces opposed to the civil rights for LGBT people.”

“This message from the leading authorities in the state must be heard loud and clear by the committee, then by the full House, the Senate, and ultimately Gov. Rauner,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. “The experts have spoken. LGBT youth are endangered by attempts to change who they are. Lawmakers must pass the bill, and the governor must sign it.”

Equality Illinois is part of a coalition calling for passage of HB217 and the Senate version, SB111, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss. The coalition backing the effort includes Equality Illinois, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Youth Service Project, Prairie Pride Coalition, Center on Halsted, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Illinois Coalition for Adolescent Health, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and PFLAG National. Together they are backing a petition drive at and also asking Illinoisans to contact their legislators.

The full letter can be read here.

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