SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A notable group of Illinois mental health, medical and academic organizations have signed a letter released today in support of the Illinois Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act which would ban so called conversion therapy of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in the Land of Lincoln.
Equality Illinois, the state's largest advocate for LGBT Illinoisans, calls the letter a "significant statement that explains the dangers of harmful and inneffective efforts to force LGBT youth to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Signatories to the letter (which is printed in full below) include the Illinois Psychological Association, Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, the National Association of Social Workers-Illinois Chapter, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Illinois Psychiatric Society, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Adler University, the Illinois Public Health Association, the Institute for Clinical Social Work, and the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association, the Illinois School Counselor Association, and the Coalition of Illinois Counselors.
"Our position is guided by scientific evidence and an adherence to the medical dictum to 'First, do no harm,' " the letter says. "To justify sexual orientation change efforts, conversion therapists define homosexuality as a sickness or disorder requiring conversion therapy. However, sexual orientation and gender identity are not mental disorders or diseases, and, therefore, ethical mental health practitioners should not attempt to 'cure' or 'repair' LGBT people through the use of sexual orientation change efforts."
LGBT youth who feel rejected "are more likely to have high levels of depression, more likely to engage in substance abuse, and more likely to attempt suicide," it says.
The letter further says that proponents of conversion therapy have no scientific backing and are driven "by forces opposed to the civil rights for LGBT people."
"This message from the leading authorities in the state must be heard loud and clear by the committee, then by the full House, the Senate, and ultimately Gov. Rauner," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. "The experts have spoken. LGBT youth are endangered by attempts to change who they are. Lawmakers must pass the bill, and the governor must sign it."
A coalition calling for passage of The Illinois Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act includes Equality Illinois, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Youth Service Project, Prairie Pride Coalition, Center on Halsted, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Illinois Coalition for Adolescent Health, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and PFLAG National.
The group is backing a petition drive and also asking Illinoisans to contact their legislators.
UPDATE: At 3PM this afternoon, the House Juvenile Justice Committee sent House Bill 217, The Illinois Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act, to the full House for consideration this spring.