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West Virginia Senate To Rework Ban on LGBTQ Teen Conversion Therapy

Mike Maroney

CHARLESTON — Legislation that would ban the controversial practice of using therapy to change the sexual orientation of children was pulled to allow a Senate committee to determine how it can improve the measure.

Senate Bill 359 was introduced by Senate Health and Human Resources Committee Chairman Michael Maroney, R-Marshall, and had a bipartisan list of co-sponsors. Maroney pulled the bill off the committee agenda Tuesday.

Also known as the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, the bill would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children under age 18 from “conversion” therapy, a practice used to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Maroney said the bill would be back on a future committee agenda after senate staff attorneys make some improvements.

Some issues with the bill include how it affects out-of-state doctors and the relationships between pastors and priests and members of their churches.

“I pulled it because there are definitely some holes in the bill,” Maroney said. “Some definitions need tightened up.”

According to Maroney, conversion therapy has been rejected by numerous health organizations. Such therapy, Maroney said, can cause depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and homelessness among young people.

The state’s lack of conversion therapy restrictions was one of eight issues that landed West Virginia on the radar of the Human Rights Campaign. Other issues include the state’s lack of housing and employment non-discrimination, and anti-bullying laws that do not include sexual orientation as a category. The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, however, has stated that such a ban on conversion therapy would put Christian and Jewish therapists out of business.

Maroney, a practicing physician, said the only issue that matters is the health of West Virginians. With even the American Association of Christian Counselors eliminating the promotion of conversion therapy in 2014, Maroney said it’s time to put limits on such practice.

“There are some organizations that are adamantly opposed to this bill,” Maroney said. “With that being said, I’m the chair of the Senate health committee and I take that job seriously.”

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