Delaware Becomes 14th State to Protect LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2018
Contact:
Lauren Gray, NCLR Communications Director
lgray@nclrights.org / 215-983-3099

CONVERSION THERAPY SURVIVOR AND NCLR BORN PERFECT STRATEGIST MATHEW SHURKA SAYS, “DELAWARE IS NOW A SAFER PLACE FOR LGBTQ YOUTH, AND WE ARE ONE STEP CLOSER TO PROTECTING LGBTQ YOUTH NATIONWIDE”

WILMINGTON, Del. — Today, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law SB 65, legislation that protects LGBTQ youth from the practice of conversion therapy. Every major medical and mental health organization has denounced conversion therapy as both harmful and ineffective. Delaware State Senators Debra Heffernan and Harris McDowell, III sponsored this legislation and worked with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) to draft. NCLR has been standing up on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years. In 2014, NCLR launched Born Perfect, a campaign to end conversion therapy nationwide.

“Today, Delaware took a stand to protect LGBTQ youth from harmful ineffective conversion therapy,” said conversion therapy survivor and NCLR Born Perfect Strategist Mathew Shurka. “Delaware is now a safer place for LGBTQ youth, and we are one step closer to protecting LGBTQ youth nationwide.”

Conversion therapy—also referred to as “ex-gay therapy” or “reparative therapy”— attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been shown to lead to higher instances of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

Through the Born Perfect campaign, NCLR has secured legislation protecting youth from these dangerous practices in 14 states. Momentum to stop conversion therapy is growing. With Delaware’s bill signing, 2018 just broke a record for the number of states (five) to pass and sign laws prohibiting conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth in one year.

Today’s bill signing was the result of targeted grassroots advocacy efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), local advocacy group Equality Delaware, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). This legislation was also publicly supported by The Trevor Project.  


The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR Protects LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy with New Toolkits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 19, 2018
Contact: Lauren Gray, NCLR
lgray@nclrights.org / 215-983-3099

NCLR LAUNCHES TOOLKITS TO PROTECT LGBTQ YOUTH IN JUVENILE JUSTICE AND CHILD WELFARE SYSTEMS FROM CONVERSION THERAPY

NCLR SAYS, “WHILE A CHILD IS IN THE CARE OF THE STATE, IT IS CRITICAL THAT STATE SYSTEMS ENSURE THEY ARE PROTECTED FROM THIS HARM”

SAN FRANCISCO—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) today released two toolkits for child welfare and juvenile justice agency employees on how to protect LGBTQ youth from the serious harm caused by conversion therapy. Conversion therapy, sometimes called “ex-gay therapy,” is an attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity and has been debunked by every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S. Ending Conversion Therapy in Child Welfare and Ending Conversion Therapy in Juvenile Justice help state agencies recognize how and when LGBTQ youth may be subjected to conversion therapy while in the care of the state, explain the negative impact of conversion therapy and its close relationship to family rejection, and include tips and model language about how to develop policies protecting LGBTQ youth from these harms.

“From social workers and foster parents to probation officers and facility chaplains, these toolkits are designed to assist child welfare and juvenile justice agencies with protecting youth from harmful, ineffective conversion therapy,” said NCLR Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator Carolyn Reyes. “Conversion therapy has been denounced by every major medical and mental health organization and has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even suicide. While a child is in the care of the State, it is critical that State systems ensure they are protected from this harm.”

These toolkits include:

  • Statisitcs regarding the negative health and mental health outcomes for LGBTQ youth who experience conversion therapy as severe family rejection
  • Fact sheet explaining conversion therapy, outlining its harms and what is being done to end the practice
  • Policy and position statements by 16 major medical and mental health associations condemning conversion therapy
  • Tips for developing child welfare and juvenile justice policies protecting youth from conversion therapy
  • Examples of provisions protecting youth from conversion therapy from 22 state agencies
  • Model policy protecting youth from conversion therapy
  • Model comprehensive LGBTQ policy with provisions addressing conversion therapy
  • Organizational and social science resources on conversion therapy, as well as resources for survivors of these practices

For the past 20 years, NCLR has been working closely with conversion therapy survivors to end these harmful practices. In 2014, NCLR launched its Born Perfect campaign, which is committed to ending conversion therapy nationwide. Through the Born Perfect campaign, conversion therapy is now prohibited in 13 states (California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire) and the District of Columbia. In Delaware, anti-conversion therapy legislation has passed and is awaiting signature by the governor.


The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Hawaii is 12th State to Protect LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 25, 2018
Contact:
Lauren Gray, NCLR Communications Director
lgray@nclrights.org / (215) 983-3099

HAWAII NOW THE 12TH STATE TO PROTECT LGBTQ YOUTH FROM CONVERSION THERAPY

NCLR’S MATHEW SHURKA TESTIFIED DURING HAWAII’S LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS AND SAID TODAY, “AS A SURVIVOR, I KNOW HOW HARMFUL CONVERSION THERAPY CAN BE, AND I COULD NOT BE HAPPIER THAT HAWAII HAS TAKEN THIS IMPORTANT STEP TO PROTECT THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF ITS LGBTQ YOUTH”

HONOLULU—Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a bill sponsored by Hawaii Senator Stanley Chang into law today that will protect Hawaii youth from the practice of conversion therapy by health professionals. Conversion therapy, sometimes called “ex-gay therapy,” attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity and has been discredited by every major medical and mental health organization as an ineffective and harmful practice. The practice of conversion therapy by licensed professionals against minors has now been prohibited by 12 states and the District of Columbia, and there is a growing movement across the country to end conversion therapy nationally.

“There are currently more than 700,000 survivors nationally, and an estimated 77,000 teenagers across the country will be subjected to conversion therapy over the next five years,” said NCLR Born Perfect Strategist Mathew Shurka. “As a survivor, I know how harmful conversion therapy can be, and I could not be happier that Hawaii has taken this important step to protect the health and safety of its LGBTQ youth from this terrible practice.”

TESTIMONY

During Hawaii’s legislative hearings on this issue, a number of conversion therapy survivors and Hawaii youth spoke out in favor the legislation and against conversion therapy:

Dillard Slay
Twenty-four year-old Dillard Slay was 13 years old when his grandparents sent him to a conversion therapy camp in northern Georgia. He was being treated for “effeminate behavior.” Slay’s search for safety, stability, and job opportunity, led him to enlist in the military, and today, he is living in Hawaii and working as a U.S. Navy Nuclear Reactor Operator.

Andria Kirk
Seventeen year-old Andrea Kirk shared stories about a number of her friends being threatened with conversion therapy after coming out to their families. Kirk stated that she wants to protect herself and her peers from ever being subjected to conversion therapy. She is a junior at Myron B Thompson Academy, Hawaii, identifies as queer-lesbian, is in a band, and is passionate about equal rights and criminal justice.

William Fritts
Eighteen year-old William Fritts is a recent graduate from Assets High School. Fritts engages in local LGBTQ activism work and has spoken to faculty at four local schools about LGBTQ bullying.

Mathew Shurka
Twenty-nine year-old Mathew Shurka was 16 years old when he began conversion therapy in New York City. He was subjected to conversion therapy for five years across four states: New York, New Jersey, California, and Virginia. Shurka now lives in New York City and works as an advocate to protect other LGBTQ youth from conversion as NCLR’s Born Perfect Strategist. Shurka was the only survivor to testify at these hearings who lives on the mainland rather than in the state of Hawaii.

Today’s bill signing was the result of targeted grassroots advocacy efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), local advocacy group the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). 


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Maryland Now 11th State to Protect LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy: NCLR Statement

OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2018
Contact:
Lauren Gray, NCLR Communications Director
lgray@nclrights.org / (215) 983-3099

MARYLAND BECOMES 11TH STATE TO PROTECT LGBTQ YOUTH FROM CONVERSION THERAPY

CONVERSION THERAPY SURVIVOR AND NCLR BORN PERFECT STRATEGIST MATHEW SHURKA SAYS, “BY SHARING OUR STORIES, SURVIVORS LIKE MEAGAN SIMONAIRE AND MYSELF CAN HELP CHANGE HEARTS AND MINDS TO PROTECT LGBTQ YOUTH.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Maryland Governor Larry Hogan today signed a bill into law that will protect Maryland youth from the practice of conversion therapy by health professionals. Conversion therapy, sometimes called “ex-gay therapy,” attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity and has been discredited by every major medical and mental health organization as an ineffective and harmful practice. On April 4, Maryland Republican Delegate Meagan Simonaire made headlines when she took to the floor of Maryland’s House of Delegates to give an impassioned speech about the harm that resulted in her own life when her family, including father state senator Bryan Simonaire, sought conversion therapy for her.

Today’s bill signing was the result of targeted grassroots advocacy efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), local Maryland LGBTQ advocacy group FreeState Justice, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). NCLR has been standing up on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years, and in 2014, launched its Born Perfect campaign—marking a commitment to end this practice in each state across the country.

NCLR Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator Carolyn Reyes issued the following statement in response: “Today, Maryland, nicknamed the ‘Free State,’ just signed a bill into law to ensure LGBTQ youth can be free from harmful, ineffective attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity through conversion therapy. Right now, there is a growing movement across the country. Maryland, and many other states, are taking action to protect youth from what the American Psychological Association has shown puts our youth at an increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. We will keep fighting until all of our youth are protected, no matter where they live.”

Conversion therapy survivor and NCLR Born Perfect Campaign Strategist Mathew Shurka issued the following statement in response: “By sharing our stories, survivors like Meagan Simonaire and myself can help change hearts and minds to protect LGBTQ youth. Today, the state of Maryland took an important step to ensure that all of Maryland’s young people know that they are born perfect.”


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Washington Law Protects LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2018
Contact: Lauren Gray, NCLR Communications Director
lgray@nclrights.org / 215-983-3099

NCLR’s Born Perfect Campaign Successful in Efforts to Prohibit Conversion Therapy in the state of Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash.—Today, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law SB 5722, legislation that protects LGBTQ youth from the fraudulent, harmful and debunked practice of “conversion therapy.” Today’s bill signing was the result of targeted grassroots advocacy efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Equal Rights Washington. NCLR has been a tireless advocate on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years, and in 2014, launched its Born Perfect campaign—making a commitment to a state-by-state advocacy campaign to end this practice in each state across the country.

National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Director Carolyn Reyes issued the following statement in response:

“Today we applaud Washington state Governor Jay Inslee’s decision to sign into law SB 5722. We are heartened by the progress made by legislators to uphold the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ individuals in Washington state. We know that few practices hurt LGBTQ youth more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through the debunked practice of ‘conversion therapy.’ Washington is an example for the rest of the country by recognizing every child knows they are born perfect.”

Sometimes referred to as “ex-gay therapy,” “reparative therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts,” conversion therapy are harmful practices that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity via physical or cognitive behavioral techniques. Conversion therapy has been shown to lead to higher instances of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even suicide, leading these practices to be condemned by every major medical and mental health organization in the United States, including the American Psychological Association.

NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. Through the Born Perfect campaign, NCLR helped to pass 36 municipal ordinances in several states (FL, OH, PA, NY, AZ, WA) and secured legislation protecting youth from these dangerous practices in California in 2012, New Jersey in 2013, Washington, D.C. in 2014, Oregon and Illinois in 2015, Vermont in 2016, and Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island in 2017.

NCLR thanks Washington Senator Marko Liias for introducing SB 5722.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

After Hate Group Sues Tampa to Overturn Prohibition of Dangerous Conversion Therapy for Minors, Equality Florida Files Motion to Defend the Ban Alongside the City of Tampa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2018
Contacts:
Elizabeth Johnson, SPLC
334-224-0059 / elizabeth.johnson@splcenter.org
Lauren Gray, NCLR
215-983-3099 / lgray@nclrights.org
Brittany Link, Equality Florida
678-634-5566 / brittany@equalityflorida.org

EQUALITY FLORIDA SAYS THE ORDINANCE PROTECTS YOUTH FROM THE “DECEPTIVE AND UTTERLY DISCREDITED PRACTICE OF SO-CALLED CONVERSION THERAPY”

TAMPA, Fla. – Equality Florida seeks to defend the City of Tampa’s ban on the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy for minors against a lawsuit filed by Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT hate group. A motion for Equality Florida to intervene was filed today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm Carlton Fields.

Conversion therapy – sometimes called “ex-gay therapy” – attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and every other major professional health organization as ineffective, unethical and dangerous. Conversion therapy has been shown to lead to higher instances of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even suicide.

As the state’s largest civil rights organization advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, Equality Florida played an integral role in the passage of Tampa’s ordinance, which prohibits licensed mental health professionals from performing conversion therapy on minors. The City of Tampa unanimously passed the ban in April 2017.

In December, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against the city, challenging the ban on behalf of Robert Vazzo and David Pickup – two licensed therapists who want to subject minors to conversion therapy – citing an alleged First Amendment violation. While Vazzo is licensed to practice in Florida, Pickup is not.

“Conversion therapy has been discredited by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations, and worse, it causes real harm to those exposed to it,” said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the SPLC. “When the City of Tampa adopted this ordinance last year, it chose to shield LGBTQ youth from this heinous practice and its harmful effects. We support Equality Florida’s stand to ensure that the well-being of these children remains protected.”

Equality Florida today filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in the case alongside the City of Tampa, citing a direct and unique interest in the case. Equality Florida also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, explaining that two federal circuit courts already have rejected similar constitutional challenges to near identical bans on conversion therapy. Finally, Equality Florida filed an opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction, demonstrating the significant harms that could befall Tampa’s youth if the ban on conversion therapy is enjoined and the plaintiffs are permitted to engage in conversion therapy.

“At Equality Florida, we fight to protect LGBTQ families and children, which is why participating in this lawsuit is at the core of our mission as Florida’s statewide LGBTQ organization,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “We worked closely with the City of Tampa, elected leaders, and members of the community to ensure LGBTQ young people are protected from this deceptive and utterly discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy.”

Liberty Counsel is known for filing litigation challenging the expansion of equal rights for the LGBTQ community – from defending anti-LGBTQ discrimination in businesses to fighting marriage equality. The SPLC identifies the Orlando-based organization as an anti-LGBT hate group.

Liberty Counsel has unsuccessfully challenged conversion therapy bans across the country. Following a 2012 challenge by Liberty Counsel, California’s statewide ban was upheld by a federal appeals court, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. It also challenged New Jersey’s law banning conversion therapy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand on two occasions.

The plaintiffs in the suit against Tampa – Vazzo and Pickup – also are veterans in the fight against conversion therapy bans. Both were plaintiffs in Liberty Counsel’s failed challenge of the conversion therapy ban in California, where both men have offices. Though Vazzo is licensed in the state of Florida, his offices are in Las Vegas and Culver City, Calif. Pickup, who is not licensed in Florida, has offices in Dallas and Los Angeles.

“Tampa has every right to protect its residents against unethical therapists who disregard the strong medical consensus that attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are not only ineffective, but dangerous,” said Carolyn Reyes, NCLR youth policy counsel who directs BornPerfect, NCLR’s national campaign to protect young people from the harms caused by conversion therapy. “Courts across the country have upheld these laws as valid regulations designed to protect vulnerable children from the serious harms caused by these unethical practices, and we are confident that Tampa’s law will be upheld as well.”

Equality Florida is committed to defending its 302,000 supporters, including those protected by the ban in Tampa and by other similar local ordinances. More than a dozen local governments in Florida – both cities and counties – have adopted conversion therapy bans, which is more than in any other state. After a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Broward County – Florida’s second largest county by population – became the most recent locality to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the harmful practice.

Motion to Intervene: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/amended_motion_to_intervene.pdf

Motion On Preliminary Injunction: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/amended_opposition_to_motion_for_preliminary_injunction.pdf

Motion to Dismiss: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/motion_to_dismiss.pdf


The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. 

Equality Florida Institute is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. For additional information, visit www.equalityflorida.org.  

Carlton Fields has more than 300 attorneys and government and financial services consultants serving clients from offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Washington, D.C. The firm is known for its national litigation practice, including class action defense, trial practice, white-collar representation, and high-stakes appeals; its insurance practice, including life and financial lines, property and casualty, reinsurance, and title insurance; its regulatory practice; and its handling of sophisticated business transactions and corporate counseling for domestic and international clients. The firm is committed to providing pro bono representation for the people and causes that most need them. For additional information, visit www.carltonfields.com and www.carltonfields.com/pro-bono/.  (Carlton Fields practices law in California through Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, LLP.)


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.