Huntington becomes fourth West Virginia city to ban conversion therapy

HUNTINGTON, West Virginia — Members of the Huntington City Council voted 7-4 Monday to become the fourth city in West Virginia to outlaw the practice of conversion therapy.

“All of Huntington’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. “No one should be profiting off of child abuse.”

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 It’s an outdated practice that science has shown doesn’t work and can lead to long-term negative health outcomes.

Researchers from UCLA’s Williams Institute report that at least 68,000 LGBTQ people live in West Virginia, and that about 7 percent of LGBTQ people are victims of conversion therapy. That means nearly 4,800 West Virginians, perhaps even more, have survived this abuse. 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 last August. Morgantown did the same in October, followed by Wheeling in May of this year.

All four of these local ordinances are similar to legislation Fairness West Virginia sponsors at the state’s Legislature. That bill, called the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, is a bipartisan proposal to outlaw conversion therapy across the state.

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.