Conversion therapy, a psychological treatment or spiritual counseling attempting to alter an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, has been debunked as pseudoscience. Many major mental health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association (APA), have denounced conversion therapy as ineffective and harmful. A 2018 study by the Williams Institute concluded that approximately 700,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives.

Currently, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont,  Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to prevent licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors, and more than 20 states have introduced similar legislation. A number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections that apply within city limits. In total, it is estimated that about 32% of LGBT Americans live in states that prohibit the use of conversion therapy on minors.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry rejects the assertion that sexuality can be altered by therapy. All available scientific evidence suggests that sexual orientation is not a choice and that conversation therapy causes more psychological harm than benefit, by inflicting upon the patient a sense of isolation and self-loathing. Many patients who have undergone conversion therapy recount being inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The reality that a person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as an LGBT person is not presented.

The Secular Coalition for America urges lawmakers to pass legislation banning the use of conversion therapy on minors. Furthermore, lawmakers should regulate its use on adults to ensure that consenting adults are fully aware of the risks involved in participating in the practice.

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