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State officials have so far denied a request to ban conversion therapy among Virginia adults

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State regulators are not barring medical professionals who want to perform what’s known as conversion therapy from doing so. Michael Pope has details.

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For many years, the American Psychiatric Association has denounced the practice of conversion therapy – health professionals licensed by the state attempting to turn gay people straight. Now, the Virginia Department of Health Professions is denying a request to ban the practice.

Delegate Patrick Hope is a Democrat from Arlington who introduced a bill that outlawed conversion therapy for minors, which is now the law. He says state officials should consider banning it for adults, too.

"It's not something that the General Assembly should necessarily get involved in because we are dealing with adults who have the ability to make their own choice. We would be the first state to do so, " he explains. "But I can tell you that if I were on the board, I would vote to put ethics and clinical standards ahead of what I consider conversion therapy to be is junk science."

Supporters of conversion therapy say health professionals shouldn't have to worry about losing their state license for engaging in professional speech, even if that professional speech has been widely discredited.

Victoria Cobb is executive director of the Family Foundation.

"There are quite literally thousands of men and women who have received counseling regarding their unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria who are treated as if they don't exist by those who are seeking to deny them the ability to be counseled," Cobb says.

She says she’s hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn Virginia’s ban on health professionals engaging in conversion therapy with minors, which she says is unconstitutional.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.