Introduced Version House Bill 2650 History

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Key: Green = existing Code. Red = new code to be enacted

WEST virginia Legislature

2017 regular session


House Bill 2650

By Delegates Shott, Fluharty, Hamilton, Walters,  Lane, C., Moore, Higginbotham, Westfall, Blair and White

[Introduced February 22, 2017; Referred
to the Committee on Health and Human Resources then the Judiciary.]

A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §47-12-1, §47-12-2, §47-12-3, §47-12-4, §47-12-5, §47-12-6 and §47-12-7, all relating to the Youth Mental Health Protection Act; legislative findings; purpose; definitions; prohibition on conversion therapy; referral services; and discipline.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:

That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §47-12-1, §47-12-2, §47-12-3, §47-12-4, §47-12-5, §47-12-6 and§47-12-7, all to read as follows:


§47-12-1.  Short title.

This article may be cited as the Youth Mental Health Protection Act.

§47-12-2.  Legislative findings.

The Legislature finds and declares the following:

(1) Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.  The major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researchers in the United States have recognized this fact for nearly forty years.

(2) The American Psychological Association convened a task force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.  The task force conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts and issued a report in 2009.  The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame towards parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.

(3) The American Psychological Association issued a resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts in 2009 that states: "The American Psychological Association advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."

(4) The American Psychiatric Association published a position statement in March of 2000 that states: "Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or 'repair' homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable.  Furthermore, anecdotal reports of 'cures' are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm.  In the last four decades, 'reparative' therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure.  Until there is such research available, the American Psychiatric Association recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.  The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.  Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction.  The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.  Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his or her sexual homosexual orientation."

(5) The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article in 1993 in its journal, Pediatrics, that states: "Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation."

(6) The American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs prepared a report in 1994 that states: "Aversion therapy (a behavioral or medical intervention which pairs unwanted behavior, in this case, homosexual behavior, with unpleasant sensations or aversive consequences) is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.  Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the societal response to it."

(7) The National Association of Social Workers prepared a policy statement in 1997 that states: "Social stigmatization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people is widespread and is a primary motivating factor in leading some people to seek sexual orientation changes.  Sexual orientation conversion therapies assume that homosexual orientation is both pathological and freely chosen.  No data demonstrates that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and, in fact, they may be harmful."

(8) The American Counseling Association Governing Council issued a position statement in April, 1999, that states: "We oppose the promotion of "reparative therapy" as a "cure" for individuals who are homosexual."

(9) The American Psychoanalytic Association issued a position statement in June, 2012, on attempts to change sexual orientation, gender, identity, or gender expression that states:  "As with any societal prejudice, bias against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression negatively affects mental health, contributing to an enduring sense of stigma and pervasive self-criticism through the internalization of such prejudice. Psychoanalytic technique does not encompass purposeful attempts to 'convert,' 'repair,' change or shift an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  Such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes."

(10) The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published an article in 2012 in its journal, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, that states: "Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful.  There is no empirical evidence adult homosexuality can be prevented if gender nonconforming children are influenced to be more gender conforming.  Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness.  On the contrary, such efforts may encourage family rejection and undermine self-esteem, connectedness and caring, important protective factors against suicidal ideation and attempts.  Given that there is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation are effective, beneficial or necessary, and the possibility that they carry the risk of significant harm, such interventions are contraindicated."

(11) The Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization, issued a statement in May, 2012 that states:  "These supposed conversion therapies constitute a violation of the ethical principles of health care and violate human rights that are protected by international and regional agreements."  The organization also noted that reparative therapies "lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people."

(12) Minors who experience family rejection based on their sexual orientation face especially serious health risks.  In one study, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.  This is documented by Caitlin Ryan et al. in their article entitled Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults (2009), 123 Pediatrics 346.

(13) West Virginia has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.

§47-12-3.  Purpose.

The purpose of this article is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from sexual orientation change efforts, also known as conversion therapy.

§47-12-4.  Definitions.

For the purposes of this article:

"Mental health provider" means a clinical psychologist licensed under article twenty-one, chapter thirty of this code; a school psychologist licensed under article twenty-one, chapter thirty of this code; a psychiatrist licensed under article three, chapter thirty of this code; a clinical social worker or social worker licensed under article thirty, chapter thirty of this code; a marriage and family therapist or associate marriage and family therapist licensed under article thirty-one, chapter thirty of this code; a professional counselor or clinical professional counselor licensed under article thirty-one, chapter thirty of this code; or any students, interns, volunteers, or other persons assisting or acting under the direction or guidance of any of these licensed professionals.

"Sexual orientation change efforts" or "conversion therapy" means any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same sex.  "Sexual orientation change efforts" or "conversion therapy" does not include counseling or mental health services that provide acceptance, support, and understanding of a person without seeking to change sexual orientation or mental health services that facilitate a person's coping, social support, and gender identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, without seeking to change sexual orientation.

§47-12-5.  Prohibition on conversion therapy.

A mental health provider may not engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under the age of eighteen under any circumstances.

§47-12-6.  Referral services related to conversion therapy.

Under any circumstances a mental health provider may not refer any current or former client or patient to any individual, within this state or within any other state, for the purpose of engaging in sexual orientation change efforts.  This prohibition includes referrals to any individual practicing or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts in person or by telephone, electronic communication, or any other form of direct or indirect communication with a client or patient.

§47-12-7. Discipline.

Any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a person under the age of eighteen by a mental health provider or any referral made by a mental health provider to a third party practicing sexual orientation change efforts constitutes unprofessional conduct.  Mental health providers found to have engaged in a sexual orientation change effort or found to have referred a current or former client or patient under the age of eighteen to an individual for the purpose of engaging in sexual orientation change efforts shall be subject to discipline by the licensing entity or disciplinary review board with competent jurisdiction.


NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to prohibit mental health providers from engaging in, or referring a patient to, sexual orientation conversion therapy when such person is under eighteen years of age.


Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from a heading or the present law and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.

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