Carney signs bill into law that bans ‘conversion therapy’


Delaware Gov. John Carney on July 23 signed Senate Bill 65 into law. The bill is aimed at protecting LGBTQ youth from “conversion therapy,” which is considered dangerous and has been widely discredited. The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Harris McDowell and state Rep. Debra Heffernan.

The bill’s original synopsis noted: “Conversion therapy is a practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including any effort to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.

“Conversion therapy has been rejected by all mainstream medical and mental health organizations, and there is no credible evidence that it is effective. Moreover, this practice poses enormous health risks to LGBTQ youth, including an increased sense of shame, guilt, hopelessness, stress and anger, thus increasing the risk of anxiety, depression and self-harm. The harm done by conversion therapy can last well into adulthood.”

The new law makes it “unprofessional conduct” or a ground for discipline for individuals granted a certificate to practice medicine as a nurse, mental health and chemical dependency professional, psychologist or clinical social work examiner to engage in conversion therapy with a child or to refer a child to a practitioner in another jurisdiction to receive conversion therapy.

It also prevents the Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families from engaging in conversion therapy with a child or recommending that a child receive conversion therapy.

Local Rep. Richard Collins (R-41st) put forth two amendments to the bill during the legislative process, both stating that a professional would not be deemed to be engaging in conversion therapy or unprofessional conduct if they were treating a patient in the manner that the patient requests or to which they consented. One of those proposed amendments was defeated and the other stricken.

GLSEN (formerly, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) welcomed the move this week.

“Too often when LGBTQ youth are in the process of accepting who they know themselves to be, they are subjected to the harmful and potentially life-threatening practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’” said Sarah Munshi, GLSEN state and district policy manager. “Today, Gov. Carney sent a very important message to young LGBTQ Delawareans that they are seen, valued and worthy of protection.”

She offered special thanks to McDowell and Heffernan, their legislative staff who ensured its passage, and to Carney “for protecting youth from this shameful practice and signing the bill into law.”

Munshi also noted, “For years, Delaware has been a leader toward LGBTQ equality among states. In taking this important step, Delaware has reaffirmed their commitment to supporting LGBTQ young people. Delaware now becomes the 15th state, along with Washington, D.C., to ban the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy.”

GLSEN’s mission is to work “to create safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.” For more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, public education, research and educator training programs, visit www.glsen.org.