Washington DC is the first US territory to ban gay ‘cure’ therapy for adults

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC, speaks prior to signing the "Let Our Vows Endure Emergency Act of 2019," or "LOVE Act," which gives the mayor the authority to issue marriage licenses during the partial federal government shutdown in January, 2019

Washington, DC has become the first territory in the US to outlaw gay ‘cure’ therapy for some adults.

The US capital‘s Mayor Muriel Bowser signed ACT 22-573 into law on January 16, extending the territory’s protections against gay ‘cure’ therapy to people over the age of 18 who still have a legal guardian.

Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced and authored the bill, which was passed unanimously by the DC Council on December 4.

She reacted to it becoming law by saying: “Medical and mental health professionals condemn the practice of conversion therapy, which is why I previously banned the practice for minors: to protect them from the increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and suicide that is associated with this harmful practice.

Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, DC, speaks during the National Action Network Breakfast on January 21, 2019 in Washington, DC

Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, DC, signed the original law banning gay ‘cure’ therapy for minors (Al Drago/Getty)

“This bill now fills a further gap to ensure that conversion therapy cannot be forced on someone who is unable to provide consent.

“It is courageous to live an open, honest life—full of purpose and meaning. I see none of those values in these types of therapies and they must not be accepted in the District of Columbia.”

In 2015, DC became just the third jurisdiction to ban the practice for children, but has broken new ground in the US by expanding the law to include adults with guardians.

LGBT+ activists commend Washington DC gay ‘cure’ ban

Queer advocates praised the move to further prohibit gay ‘cure’ therapy, which has been condemned by organisations including the World Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association and the National Health Service.

Sam Brinton, head of advocacy for LGBT+ suicide prevention group The Trevor Project, said: “Nobody should be subjected to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

“This is especially true of those, like minors or adults under guardianship, who are limited in their ability to consent to these so-called ‘treatments.’

“This bill is a monumental step in the right direction and we hope other states follow DC’s example.”

— Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, National LGBTQ Task Force’s senior policy counsel

“The Trevor Project was proud to offer testimony in support of this legislation, and we are grateful to the DC Council for acting to protect vulnerable LGBTQ adults.”

LGBT+ charity the National LGBTQ Task Force’s senior policy counsel, Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, said: “With this measure, DC is leading the nation in protecting some of our most vulnerable LGBTQ people—those who despite their adulthood are not allowed by the state to make their own medical decisions.

“Far too often we’ve seen guardianship being used to prevent LGBTQ people from being who they are. This bill is a monumental step in the right direction and we hope other states follow DC’s example.”

Researchers published findings last year which showed that 698,000 LGBT+ adults aged 18-59 in the US have endured gay ‘cure’ therapy.

Sam Crane, director of public policy for autism charity the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, hailed the move as “an important step toward protecting the rights of LGBT people with disabilities.

“Guardians of disabled adults are often empowered to make medical and mental health decisions without the adults’ consent.

“This bill will ensure that, at least, those decisions won’t include forcing disabled LGBT adults into abusive and coercive ‘therapies’ that we know to be harmful.”