Morgantown becomes second West Virginia city to ban conversion therapy

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Members of the Morgantown city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to become the second city in West Virginia that bans 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 It’s an outdated practice that science has shown doesn’t work and can lead to long-term negative health outcomes.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 Morgantown’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. “Morgantown’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 adopting 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 became the first West Virginia municipality to ban conversion therapy for minors in early August. Morgantown’s new law, and the law adopted by Charleston, are both similar to legislation Fairness West Virginia sponsors at the Legislature.

That bill, called the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, is a statewide bipartisan 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.

“The passing of the Morgantown Human Rights Commission’s Ordinance to Prohibit Conversion Therapy is a victory for equality and acceptance with the Morgantown LGBTQ+ community,” said Ash Orr, chair of the commission. “Members of our community can now begin to heal and rest knowing that our city is protecting those most vulnerable to this terrible practice. Thanks to the hard work of the LGBTQ+ community members and leaders, our allies, the Morgantown Human Rights Commission, the City of Morgantown, and Fairness West Virginia, we can now work towards unity.

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

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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 Jack Jarvis, communications manager, at jake@fairnesswv.org.