Legal Battlefields: The Fight to Outlaw Conversion Therapy in Conservative States

Legal Battlefields: The Fight to Outlaw Conversion Therapy in Conservative States

Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” refers to practices that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices, which are primarily religiously motivated, claim to “cure” people of being gay or transgender. However, major medical and psychological associations have denounced conversion therapy as ineffective, unethical, and extremely harmful, especially for minors.

Despite the medical consensus, conversion therapy remains legal in over half of U.S. states due to opposition from socially conservative groups and lawmakers. But over the past decade, more and more states have moved to ban licensed therapists from subjecting minors to conversion therapy. These laws have faced staunch resistance in traditionally conservative states, sparking heated legal battles between LGBTQ advocates and conservative legislators intent on protecting “religious freedom.”

Utah became an early battleground state in 2015 when it considered banning conversion therapy for minors. Although the Mormon church officially denounced the discredited practice that same year, conservative lawmakers argued that outlawing conversion therapy infringes on parents’ rights. A compromise bill was eventually passed after years of dispute. It stopped short of completely banning licensed conversion therapy for minors but placed some significant restrictions on the practice.

The fight in conservative southern states has proven even more contentious. Over a dozen bills have been introduced in state legislatures from North Carolina to Oklahoma aiming to limit or outlaw conversion therapy for minors, but so far none have become law due to fierce GOP opposition claiming these measures attack religious liberty. For example, in 2020 the Republican-dominated Alabama state legislature blocked a proposed bipartisan bill that would have outlawed licensed Alabama health professionals from trying to change anyone under age 19’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Opponents claimed it was a threat to parental consent laws even though leading state medical groups endorsed the ban.

Legal experts expect more clashes ahead between those arguing that conversion therapy bans protect children and public health versus those insisting the bans trample on constitutional freedoms. Several GOP-led states have even taken proactive measures attempting to preemptively bar future legislative bans on conversion therapy. However, public opinion polls consistently show most Americans across political affiliations oppose subjecting minors to a practice known to have detrimental mental health consequences. With an increasing number of left-leaning states successfully instituting bans, there is hope bipartisan compromise can eventually be reached to end this harmful practice on vulnerable youth nationwide. For now though, the legal battlefields continue to grow.

We at SHAVA are honored to share this article as a reflection of our deep commitment to celebrating the rich diversity within the transgender community. It is with heartfelt solidarity that we stand with transgender individuals of color, wholeheartedly advocating for an environment of acceptance and allyship. Through our efforts, we aim to uplift and honor the myriad of unique experiences that contribute to the beautiful tapestry of our community. Discover more about our initiatives at shava.co

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