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.

New HRC, NCLR Parent Resource to Protect Children from Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2017
Sarah McBride | Sarah.McBride@HRC.org | 302-598-4310
Lauren Gray | LGray@NCLRights.org | 215-983-3099

Critical New Resource for Parents on Protecting Their Children from Dangerous Conversion Therapy

HRC Foundation and NCLR release new guide to help families recognize conversion therapies

WASHINGTON – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a national legal organization committed to advancing LGBTQ equality since 1977, released Just As They Area comprehensive resource for parents on the harmful practice known as conversion therapy.

The guide helps parents recognize when and how conversion therapy is promoted, provides information about the dangers of the practice, and outlines best practices for parents seeking to promote the health and well-being of their LGBTQ child, including finding inclusive counseling services and churches. It features the voices of LGBTQ youth and young adults who have been subjected to this dangerous and debunked “therapy,” including Lynse, a gender non-binary and queer former congregant at Ted Haggard’s New Life Church, and Darren, a Black, gay, Christian man who once made his home in a church basement where he was forbidden from leaving without his pastor’s permission. Their stories highlight the devastating harm that conversion therapy, along with family and community rejection, can have on LGBTQ young people.

“Parents need and deserve information and guidance they can trust when they are helping their children navigate issues around their sexual orientation and gender identity, not discounted theories and dangerous so-called therapies,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training. “Even as more families within all faith communities open their hearts and embrace their LGBTQ loved ones, in too many homes across the country, LGBTQ youth continue to face rejection, bullying, and the harmful impacts of ‘conversion therapy.’ We must redouble our efforts to educate families and communities about the terrible dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity and that is why we are proud to partner with NCLR to release Just As They Are – so that parents have the information and resources they need to protect the health and wellbeing of their LGBTQ children.”

“The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator Carolyn Reyes. “That’s why Just As They Are is so critical. We need parents to know the signs, to recognize harmful and discredited conversion therapies, and understand the gravity of what’s at stake: the lives of our LGBTQ youth. All of our youth are born perfect.”

There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The dangerous practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

The report comes one day after World Suicide Prevention Day, when LGBTQ advocates raised the alarm that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGBTQ counterparts, and a shocking 41% of transgender adults report having attempted suicide, most before the age of 25.

NCLR and HRC have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. Rhode Island recently became the eleventh jurisdiction — and the fourth state so far this year — to enact these crucially important protections. Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, and New Mexico all also have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice.

To read Just As They Are, visit http://www.nclrights.org/legal-help-resources/resource/just-as-they-are-protecting-our-children-from-the-harms-of-conversion-therapy/.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the education arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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.

Governor Brian Sandoval signs law ending conversion therapy in Nevada for LGBTQ youth

NCLR’S BORN PERFECT CAMPAIGN ADDS NEW WIN TO STATE-BY-STATE ADVOCACY EFFORTS

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (May 17, 2017)—Today, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed SB201 into law, putting an end to the fraudulent, harmful and unscientific practice of so-called “conversion therapy” in the state of Nevada for LGBTQ youth. Today’s bill signing was the result of targeted grassroots advocacy efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Gender Justice Nevada, Kaempfer Crowell, and the Human Rights Campaign. 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 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, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and elected officials have prioritized the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ Nevadans by putting an end to the discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide—risks that are particularly acute for youth. Nevada knows that all of our children 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.

Vermont Joins Growing Number of Jurisdictions Protecting LGBTQ Kids from Conversion Therapy

MONTPELIER, Vt. (May 25, 2016)—Today, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Senate Bill 132 into law, making Vermont the eighth jurisdiction—behind California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Washington D.C., and Cincinnati—to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangers of conversion therapy.

Senate Bill 132, which protects LGBTQ youth from mental health providers attempting to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through practices that are linked to substance abuse, extreme depression, and suicide, was approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives in April. The law will go into effect July 1, 2016.

“We are thrilled that Vermont has joined the rapidly growing number of states leading the way to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy,” said the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Youth Policy Counsel Carolyn Reyes. “Vermont families can now have confidence that the mental health professional they turn to in times of uncertainty may not use their state license to profit from their children’s pain. Most importantly, Vermont children can now rest easy in the knowledge that they cannot be forced or coerced to undergo dangerous and discredited treatments to try to change who they are. Today brings us one step closer to the day when all LGBTQ youth know they were born perfect.”

Said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin: “No young person should be subjected to this extremely harmful and discredited practice, which medical professionals agree not only doesn’t work, but can also have life-threatening consequences. It is nothing short of child abuse. We thank Governor Shumlin and the Vermont State Legislature for prioritizing the well-being and safety of our nation’s youth, and remain committed to working with partners to ensure that this quackery is banned from coast to coast.”

NCLR, HRC, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Pride Center Vermont, and Outright Vermont played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill. A broad range of groups supported Senate Bill 132, including national LGBTQ organizations and civil rights organizations.

NCLR and HRC are at the forefront of efforts to protect youth and their families from conversion therapy, and work closely with legislators and state leaders across the country to introduce bills protecting youth from these dangerous practices. In 2014, it launched its #BornPerfect campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country by 2019 by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In February, NCLR, HRC, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a historic federal consumer fraud complaint against a major provider of “conversion therapy,” urging the Federal Trade Commission to take enforcement action against the organization and all practitioners engaging in similar fraudulent advertising and business practices.


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.

National Organizations Target ‘Conversion Therapy’ Quacks with Historic Federal Consumer Fraud Complaint

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 24, 2016)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal consumer fraud complaint against People Can Change, an organization that preys on vulnerable LGBT people and families by using damaging and discredited claims that it can change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency charged with protecting America’s consumers, the groups lay out the junk pseudoscience that Virginia-based People Can Change (PCC) uses to expose the American people to ineffective and dangerous “conversion therapy” practices that have for decades been linked to serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

The organizations are asking the FTC to take enforcement action to stop PCC’s deceptive practices and investigate all practitioners making similar claims.

The complaint alleges that PCC’s advertisements and business practices, which expressly and implicitly claim that they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, constitute deceptive, false, and misleading practices and can cause serious harm to consumers, all in direct violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The complaint also alleges that, in violation of FTC guidelines, PCC, like other practitioners in the “conversion therapy” industry:

  • Defrauds consumers into believing that being LGBT is a mental illness or emotional defect that needs to be cured, a false claim rejected for decades by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, multiple United Nations committees, and every other major medical and mental health organization in the country;
  • Falsely claims that its “services” have a basis in science, and fails to disclose that its practices can lead to depression, substance abuse, decreased self-esteem, and self-harm, including suicide;
  • Targets and exploits highly vulnerable groups, including LGBT youth, who already experience bias and rejection at alarming rates in society and their own homes;
  • And uses unsubstantiated testimonials, endorsements, and scientific claims to justify charging hundreds and thousands of dollars to give vulnerable individuals false hope that their core identity is something to be cured.

“Today, after decades of advocacy, the voices of conversion therapy survivors have carried all the way up to the highest levels of government. This historic complaint is not only the first clear opportunity the Obama Administration has had to end these deadly practices for good, but, if investigated fully, could very well be the final nail in the coffin of the entire conversion therapy industry. We sincerely look forward to working with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate this fraudulent and unethical organization – along with every trusted professional who profits from the anguish of LGBTQ youth and their families. But, even more so, we look forward to the day when every human being, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, knows they were born perfect.” said NCLR #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Sam Ames.

“Conversion therapy is abusive, harmful to children, and we urge the FTC to join our call to ban its practice once and for all. This is dangerous junk science that uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is by changing the very nature of who they are,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“This complaint builds on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s groundbreaking lawsuit against New Jersey conversion therapy provider JONAH, in which a state jury unanimously found that its so called ‘therapy’ program, which incorporated PCC’s weekend-in-the-woods conversion therapy services, was consumer fraud and an unconscionable commercial practice,” said Scott McCoy, SPLC senior staff attorney. “Our case shut JONAH down, shed light on PCC’s harmful practices, and helped develop this important action to stop PCC and others in this industry from misleading and harming more people.”

The complaint comes as the movement to end “conversion therapy” continues to gain momentum. Earlier this month, Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Cory Booker of New Jersey, joined by California Reps. Jackie Speier and Ted Lieu, issued a letter to the FTC urging the agency to use its authority to take “all actions possible to stop the unfair, deceptive and fraudulent practice of conversion therapy. …”

Their request follows a groundbreaking Department of Health and Human Services report called “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” and months after President Obama, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued independent statements calling for an end to the practices.

Last year, a SPLC lawsuit forced the New Jersey “conversion therapy” provider JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) to permanently stop its bogus program and pay damages to plaintiffs. A jury found that JONAH had committed consumer fraud and engaged in unconscionable commercial practices in violation of state law.

California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and the District of Columbia have passed laws protecting LGBT minors from “conversion therapy,” and more than 20 states have introduced similar legislation this year. New York is also adopting regulations to protect youth from “conversion therapy” as a result of executive action by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The law firm Cooley LLP serves as counsel to the petitioners in this matter.

Read the full complaint to the FTC here.


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.