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Vt. Law Bans Anti-Gay ‘Therapy’

Published: 5/26/2016 12:08:33 AM
Modified: 5/26/2016 12:08:41 AM

Amid a national debate over rights and rules regarding the LGBTQ community, Vermont has become the fifth state to outlaw conversion therapy, a practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual or gender identity.

“It’s absurd to think that being gay or transgender is something to be cured of,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday in signing the bill into law. “At a time when the rights of LGBT individuals are under attack in other parts of the country, Vermont will continue to stand up to hatred and bigotry and show the rest of the country what tolerance, understanding and common humanity look like.”

Shumlin signed the bill on the steps of the Statehouse, surrounded by legislative leaders who have long fought to protect the civil liberties of gay, bisexual and transgender Vermonters.

The bill bans conversion practices on any Vermonter younger than 18. Any medical professional found to have violated the law could face discipline, including the denial of a medical license.

Shumlin and other proponents of the bill pointed to a 2015 study from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that “found that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.”

Vermont follows California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C., in banning the controversial practice. The law goes into effect July 1.

Though Shumlin said officials aren’t aware of any state therapists using conversion therapy, he signaled that new protections are necessary during a time when other states are scaling back civil rights.

The most recent high-profile instance came in North Carolina in March, when the Legislature passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which says that, in government buildings, people may use only the restrooms and changing rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.

After the so-called bathroom bill generated national headlines, Shumlin banned official state travel to North Carolina and called the legislation “an absolute disgrace.”

The Vermont Agency of Education issued guidelines in March on how to approach transgender issues.

“Schools must determine supports for transgender and gender nonconforming students on a case-by-case basis, informed by the individual student’s needs,” the guidelines read.

The state guidelines faced some backlash from students, including at Green Mountain Union High School in Chester. The New York Times wrote about “straight pride” protests that arose there after a transgender student used the men’s bathroom.

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