The use of sexual orientation conversion therapy on minors will be banned in Illinois under a measure Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law on Thursday.
The Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act, HB 217, makes it illegal for mental health care specialists to perform conversion therapies on patients under the age of 18.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in Illinois will now be protected from discredited and dangerous efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity," Equality Illinois Public Policy Director Mike Ziri said in an email to supporters upon news of the bill's signing. "Known as 'conversion therapy,' these efforts are extremely harmful to the physical and mental well-being of young people."
The bill's sponsor, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), also issued a statement applauding the legislation being signed into law:
Today's signing of the Youth Mental Health Protection Act is an important victory in the centuries-old fight for equality. Conversion therapy is the widely condemned practice of attempting to change a young person's sexual orientation from gay to heterosexual through pseudo-scientific and harmful measures.
Throughout the legislative process, we heard from survivors of this harmful practice, young people who had the courage to speak up and the resolve to ensure that no child has to endure what they did ever again. I am thankful that the governor listened to their stories with compassion and understood this part of our struggle. By signing this bill, he is putting our children first and making the future a better, more supportive place for all.
Illinois is now the fourth state to join a coalition of advocates in choosing acceptance over discrimination, and I am so proud of my colleagues and friends who helped us move this initiative forward. Our version of this legislation is the most comprehensive bill in the nation, barring health providers from engaging in this practice and affording survivors access to consumer fraud action against the perpetrators of this abuse.
As advocates and allies, we applaud this legislation because it means that our children can no longer be told they are broken and must change who they are. We are optimistic because this law is one step closer to a more just and accepting society. And more than anything else, we celebrate this progress because the end of this cruel practice will result in countless young lives saved.
Every major scientific organization has dismissed conversion therapy as harmful. The Illinois Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association for Social Workers, and so many more have not only disproven its utility, but they have decried its effects. Children who are highly rejected by their communities based on sexual orientation are six times more likely to suffer from depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not mental disorders. Who you are is not a disease, and that is the message we should be telling our children. I am grateful to all the sponsors, advocates, parents, and people across the state who supported this legislation and I am eager to continue the fight to protect our children.