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D.C. Moves to Ban Controversial 'Conversion Therapy' for LGBT Youth

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Image: Activists celebrate two decisions by the US Supreme Court seen as victories for gay marriage
File photo of activists celebrating two decisions by the US Supreme Court seen as victories for gay marriage.David Poller / Zuma Press, file

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The Council of the District of Columbia on Tuesday approved a bill banning sexual orientation change efforts for minors, poising it to become the third jurisdiction in the nation to prohibit "conversion therapy" for youth.

The controversial practice has been banned in California and New Jersey. But before the legislation can become law in D.C., the district’s mayor and Congress have to review it.

Mental health providers violating the ban will be subject to discipline and penalties, according to the legislation.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights heralded the bill, saying conversion therapy practices can lead to severe depression and even suicide among youth.

“The Council has used its authority to protect our most vulnerable youth from dangerous and discredited pseudoscience that tells them who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Samantha Ames, an NCLR staff attorney, said in a statement.

Christian ministry Exodus International, which led the so-called ex-gay movement, announced last year it would shut down, and its leader apologized extensively for causing "pain and hurt."

Mainstream psychiatric and medical groups had said the movement, also known as reparative therapy, was unfounded in science and can be harmful. The American Psychiatric Association said it could cause depression and anxiety in patients.

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