Charleston becomes first West Virginia city to ban conversion therapy

CHARLESTON, West Virginia — Members of the Charleston City Council voted 14-9 Monday night to become the first city in West Virginia banning the practice of conversion therapy for minors.

Conversion therapy is a pseudoscientific practice where a medical provider attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s an outdated practice that science has shown doesn’t work and can lead to long-term negative health outcomes.

“All of Charleston’s children deserve love and respect for who they are, and no one should be in the business of trying to shame or humiliate teenagers out of being LGBTQ,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “Our city’s medical and faith communities came out strongly in support of this bill to ban the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, and I appreciate members of city council for bravely approving it.”

A 2019 report from UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates that 700,000 people across the country have been subjected to conversion therapy. Studies have shown that victims of conversion therapy are 92 percent more likely to have thoughts of suicide.

“This is about protecting the wellbeing and mental health of vulnerable children,” Schneider said. “Survivors are typically left with years of trauma to overcome, stemming from an unscientific practice they never had a choice to receive. LGBTQ kids are worthy of love and support just the way they are, and this law affirms that.”

More than twenty other states and 70 municipalities already have laws on the books banning conversion therapy. Charleston’s new law is similar to legislation Fairness West Virginia sponsors at the Legislature.

That bill, called the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, is a statewide proposal to stop licensed mental health providers from practicing conversion therapy. It would strip practitioners of their licenses if they fail to comply with the law. Cities like Charleston are unable to remove someone’s professional license, though.

If anyone is interested in getting their community to ban conversion therapy, contact Fairness by emailing info@fairnessw.org to get started.

___________________________________________________

Fairness West Virginia is the statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer West Virginians. Our mission is to ensure LGBTQ people can be open, honest and safe at home, at work, and in the community. We are open to everyone who believes in fundamental fairness.

Please direct questions to Jake Jarvis, communications manager, at jake@fairnesswv.org.