Virginia’s controversial governor has signed bipartisan legislation that bans licensed counseling for minors with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identify issues.
With a new Democratic majority that has pushed firearms bans and rolled back abortion restrictions, Virginia citizens have witnessed their state follow others by banning so-called “reparative therapy."
Roger Gannam, an attorney with Liberty Counsel, says the religious liberty law firm is taking notice of the new law since it operates a firm in the state.
"We've already challenged these laws in Florida and Maryland, previously in New Jersey and California,” he says. “So Virginia's new law is certainly in our sights...”
Legislators and activists, and news outlets such as The Associated Press, refer to these bans are "conversion therapy," a description that can be traced back to LGBT activists who have testified to state legislators about abusive counseling sessions.
Gannam says what is being banned is a voluntary conversation with a professional, licensed counselor.
"We've demonstrated in court time and time again there's absolutely no empirical or scientific evidence whatsoever that anyone who has ever been harmed by a practice called ‘conversion therapy,’” says Gannam. "In fact, there's many anecdotal accounts of people – particularly people in the faith community – who have received a benefit from being able to have a conversation with a counselor about unwanted attractions.”
Those accounts never make it into a news report, he adds, only claims of harmful behavior.
Twelve Republicans in the House of Delegates joined their Democrat colleagues to vote for the ban on counseling for minors. In the state Senate, Sen. Jill Vogel broke with aRepublicans to vote in favor of the bill.
Virginia is the first state in the South to enact such a ban.